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Does Coffee Prevent Liver Disease?

Posted Monday, February 5, 2018 by Gene Moen

We have written another blog post regarding a meta-analysis of studies focused on various possible health benefits of moderate coffee consumption. Here is another one, which may cause readers to wonder whether we are part of the Starbucks public relations team. A recent article in Medical News Today focuses only on coffee and the liver. The conclusion: the evidence is very strong that consuming 4 cups of coffee a day keeps the liver doctor away.

The article was about an event held at the Society of Medicine in London, chaired by Prof. Graeme Alexander, a senior advisor to the British Liver Trust of University College London. At the event, there was discussion about the rise of liver disease: an estimated 31,000 people in the U.S. die each year from cirrhosis. This is presumed to result from excess alcohol, calorie, and fat intake. And a major problem with liver disease is that it is often non-symptomatic, which means it is often undiagnosed until treatment is not effective.

Dr. Alexander stated about this problem “Liver disease is on the rise across Europe, and it is important that we understand how coffee, one of the most popular drinks in the world, and diet affects the disease.” Research papers discussed at the conference included one that suggested that coffee drinking, versus no coffee consumption, is associated with a 40% reduction in liver cancer risk. Another study found a 25-70% reduction in liver cirrhosis risk.

While recognizing that coffee may be good for the liver, there is uncertainty as to “why.” As one participant asked “How does coffee weave this hepatic magic?” There are some theories bouncing around. One is that caffeine might be involved, with a focus on paraxanthine (one of caffeine’s main metabolites). It decreased the synthesis of connective tissue growth, which in turn may decelerate the development of liver fibrosis, alcoholic cirrhosis, and cancer.

A major problem with this theory is that consumption of tea – which also contains caffeine — does not seem to have the same liver benefits as coffee. Another theory points to other constituents of coffee (kahweol and cafestol) because there is some evidence that these compounds may provide some anti-cancer effects.

There may be a range of compounds and mechanisms involved which benefit the liver, and whatever the scientific explanation, many researchers now think that having a few cups of coffee every day is just what your liver wanted for Christmas.

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