Drinking more coffee might help reduce the kind of liver damage that’s associated with overindulging in alcohol and food.
Researchers analyzed data from nine published studies with more than 430,000 participants and found that drinking two additional cups of coffee a day was linked to a 44 percent lower risk of developing liver cirrhosis.
“Cirrhosis is potentially fatal, and there is no cure as such,” said the new study’s lead author, Oliver Kennedy of Britain’s Southampton University. “Therefore, it is significant that the risk of developing cirrhosis may be reduced by consumption of coffee, a cheap, ubiquitous and well-tolerated beverage,” Kennedy added by email.
Cirrhosis involves a hardening and destruction of liver tissue; it kills more than a million people every year worldwide. It can be caused by hepatitis infections, excessive alcohol consumption, immune disorders and fatty liver disease, which is tied to obesity and diabetes.
Kennedy and colleagues did a pooled analysis of average coffee consumption across earlier studies to see how much adding two additional cups each day might influence the odds of liver disease.
In eight of the nine studies analyzed, increasing coffee consumption by two cups a day was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of cirrhosis. In all but one study, the risk of cirrhosis continued to decline as daily cups of coffee climbed.
Kennedy cautioned that it’s not clear exactly how coffee might lead to a healthier liver or whether the type of beans or brewing method matter.
“Coffee is a complex mixture containing hundreds of chemical compounds, and it is unknown which of these is responsible for protecting the liver,” he said.
It’s also important to note that coffee isn’t powerful enough to counteract lifestyle choices that can severely damage the liver, said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the study.
“Unfortunately, although coffee contains compounds that have antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties, drinking a few cups of coffee a day cannot undo the systematic damage that is the result of being overweight or obese, sedentary, excessive alcohol consumption or drastically mitigate an unhealthy diet,” Heller said by email.