Coffee and Liver Health

If you’ve ever wondered whether your morning cup, or two, of joe is doing your body more harm than good, you’ll be glad to know that a new study has found that drinking two or more cups of coffee every day may reduce your risk of death from liver cirrhosis by 66 percent.

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver that occurs due to injury or long-term disease. Scar tissue cannot do what healthy liver tissue does—make protein, help fight infections, clean the blood, help digest food, and store energy.

A 2004 report from The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that each year 1.3 percent of total worldwide deaths are caused by liver cirrhosis. Previous research shows that 29 million Europeans have chronic liver disease, with 17,000 deaths annually attributed to cirrhosis. According to WHO, liver cirrhosis is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S.

The study, published in Hepatology, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, was conducted by Woon-Puay Koh of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore and the National University of Singapore.

Researchers found that consuming two or more cups of coffee each day reduces the risk of death from liver cirrhosis—specifically cirrhosis caused by non-viral hepatitis—by 66 percent.

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Coffee the Only Drink that Reduced Mortality Risk

While the effects of alcohol, black tea, green tea, and soft drinks were also included in the study, coffee was found to be the only drink that decreased these risks.

The study, called The Singapore Chinese Health Study, evaluated 63,275 Chinese people, aged 45 to 74 years old. Researchers obtained data on diet, lifestyle, and medical histories, via interviews and questionnaires that were conducted between 1993 and 1998. Subjects were followed up for an average of 15 years. During that time, 4,928 of the study participants died. The cause was liver cirrhosis in 114 participants. The mean age of death was 67 years.

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Participants Who Drank Alcohol Daily Had Greater Risk

Not surprisingly, participants in the study who drank at least 20 grams of ethanol (alcohol) each day had a greater risk of cirrhosis mortality, versus non-drinkers. Consuming coffee was associated with a lower risk of death from cirrhosis, especially for non-viral hepatitis related cirrhosis.

In a press release, Koh stated that the study is the first to demonstrate a difference between the effects of coffee on non-viral and viral hepatitis-related cirrhosis mortality. “This finding resolves the seemingly conflicting results on the effect of coffee in Western and Asian-based studies of death from liver cirrhosis. Our finding suggests that while the benefit of coffee may be less apparent in the Asian population where chronic viral hepatitis B predominates currently, this is expected to change as the incidence of non-viral hepatitis related cirrhosis is expected to increase in these regions, accompanying the increasing affluence and westernizing lifestyles amongst their younger populations," said Koh.

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