Study: Coffee drinkers have reduced risk of liver disease

June 24, 2021

For decades it seemed researchers were bent on demonizing our beloved morning wake-up elixir, coffee. But the tide has turned and these days barely a month goes by without a new study touting the health benefits of java, NBC’s Today show reports..

The latest of these studies finds that regular coffee consumption—be it caffeinated, decaffeinated, or instant— appears to protect our livers from some really scary diseases, including cancer.

Using information from a database of nearly 500,000 adults based in the United Kingdom, researchers identified a  21% reduction in the risk for chronic liver disease overall, a 20% reduction in the risk of fatty liver disease,  and a 49% reduction in the risk of death from chronic liver disease, according to the report published in the journal,  BMC Public Health.

“Chronic liver disease is a huge problem for global health, especially low income countries where treatments are less available,” said the study’s lead author, Oliver Kennedy, a visiting research fellow at the University of Southampton in the U.K.

“Our finding that drinking coffee might protect against chronic liver disease is significant because coffee is cheap, widely available, safe, and well tolerated by most people,” Kennedy said in an email to Today. “It’s also reassuring that all coffee types seem to be protective, including decaffeinated coffee; which might be preferable for certain people, for example, pregnant women.”

It’s not yet known how coffee might protect the liver, Kennedy said. “Coffee contains many hundreds of compounds and we don’t know exactly which of these confers the protective effect,” he added. “It may be one compound or a combination. The fact that different types of coffee, which contain different chemical compounds, seem protective suggests it might be a combination.”

“It was difficult to assess the effects of very high levels of coffee consumption as the numbers of people drinking these amounts in our study were relatively small,” Kennedy said. “From the data available, there did seem to be a dose-response with larger amounts conferring more protection.”

“However,” Kennedy said, “there is likely a level beyond which increasing coffee consumption confers no further benefit. For example, in our study the benefit of five or more cups each day was generally smaller than for three or four cups each day, though still protective compared to no coffee.”

Research contact: @TODAYshow

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