Drinking any type of coffee associated with reduced risk of chronic liver disease

A UK study of coffee drinkers found links to coffee reducing liver issues. Picture: Shutterstock
A UK study of coffee drinkers found links to coffee reducing liver issues. Picture: Shutterstock

Whether you know it as a cup of Joe, Java, tar, speedy bean-juice, lifeblood, rocket fuel, or even worm dirt - however you take your coffee in the morning could be reducing your risk of developing issues with your liver, according to UK researchers.

The team of researchers from the University of Southampton in England and Edinburgh University in Scotland, found an association between both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee - ground or instant - and a reduced risk of developing chronic liver disease and related liver conditions compared to not drinking coffee.

Their study found that compared to those who don't drink coffee, coffee consumers had a 21 per cent reduced risk of chronic liver disease, a 20 per cent reduced risk of chronic or fatty-liver disease and a 49 per cent reduced risk of death from chronic liver disease, with the benefit peaking at three to four cups per day.

Compared to those who don't drink coffee, coffee consumers had a 21 per cent reduced risk of chronic liver disease.

The research team believed the high levels of kahweol and cafestol in ground coffee could play a part, as these ingredients had previously been shown to be beneficial against liver issues in animals.

Instant coffee, which has low levels of kahweol and cafestol was also associated with a reduced risk of chronic liver disease. While the reduction in risk was smaller than that associated with ground coffee, the finding might suggest that other ingredients, or potentially a combination of ingredients, may be beneficial.

Dr Oliver Kennedy, the lead researcher on the study, said the findings could see coffee become a preventative treatment for chronic liver disease.

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"Coffee is widely accessible and the benefits we see from our study may mean it could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease," Dr Kennedy said.

"This would be especially valuable in countries with lower income and worse access to healthcare and where the burden of chronic liver disease is highest."

Researchers studied UK Biobank data on 495,585 participants with known coffee consumption, who were followed over a median of 10.7 years to monitor who developed chronic liver disease and related conditions.

Of all participants included in the study, 78 per cent (384,818) consumed ground or instant caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, while 22 per cent (109,767) did not drink any type of coffee. During the study period, there were 3600 cases of chronic liver disease, including 301 deaths. Additionally, there were 5439 cases of chronic liver disease or steatosis (a build of up fat in the liver also known as fatty-liver disease), and 184 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer.

However, the research team caution that, as coffee consumption was only reported when participants first enrolled in the study, the study does not account for any changes in the amount or type of coffee they consumed over the 10.7-year study period. As participants were predominantly white and from a higher socio-economic background, the findings may be difficult to generalise to other countries and populations.

They suggest that future research could test the relationship between coffee and liver disease with more rigorous control of the amount of coffee consumed. They also propose validating their findings in more diverse groups of participants.

  • From the University of Southampton and Edinburgh University, UK.
  • Study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.
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