Coffee & Chronic Liver Disease: The Bean For A Better Liver
Together with soft drinks, milk, tea, water, beer, and orange juice, coffee is one of the world’s most beloved and highly consumed beverages. Some might even argue that it is an indispensable part of their day and can’t start their day without a cup of coffee. Many people need another cup of coffee to give themselves a mid morning energy boost and another cup to get them through their post-lunch afternoon sugar slump.
Interestingly, recent studies have shown that coffee lovers might actually enjoy more benefits than just an energy boost. Your liver, it appears, might also be the beneficiary of coffee.
In the last 10 years, there have been an increasing number of studies which have shown an association between people who drink more coffee and a healthier liver including a study conducted by the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at SGH early this year. This study revealed consuming a minimum of two cups of coffee daily reduced the risk of dying from non-viral hepatitis-related cirrhosis, such as fatty liver disease, autoimmune disease, and alcohol by 66%.
Coffee is associated with a lower risk of chronic liver disease progression and liver cancer
Studies have shown that individuals who drink more cups of coffee in a day are associated with a lower risk of developing the following:
- Fibrosis, scarring of the liver
- Cirrhosis, the later stage of fibrosis
- Non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease(NAFLD) in which your liver contains too much fat
- Liver cancer
Coffee (not caffeine) lowers your risk of dying from chronic liver diseases
Coffee contains more than a thousand different compounds. Hence, it is difficult to identify the specific ingredients that lower the risk of mortality from chronic liver diseases. However, from the same study mentioned above, it was found that caffeine, while being the most prominent and well-known compound in coffee, has no significant impact on mortality from chronic liver disease. This was found after studying other caffeinated beverages, such as tea and soft drinks. The health benefits of coffee extend to every kind of coffee, including decaffeinated, instant, and ground coffee.
So how does coffee help?
While research is still ongoing, some possibilities as to how coffee benefits the liver include:
- When our body digests coffee, it produces a chemical known as paraxanthine that slows down the growth of scar tissues caused by fibrosis, which may help to fight hepatitis C, alcohol-related cirrhosis, liver cancer, and fatty liver disease.
- There are two components found in coffee, cafestol and kahweol, that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
As yet, many questions remain including how much coffee to drink per day. We do not know enough to recommend the ideal amount of coffee per day. Coffee may also have some unwanted side-effects such as a fast heart rate, anxiety or insomnia. Hence, coffee might not be suitable for certain individuals.
Coffee seems to be a promising elixir for the liver, but there are many other factors that go towards ensuring a healthy liver. Those include eating a healthy diet, cutting down on alcohol, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight and ensuring you are vaccinated against hepatitis B.
Chronic liver disease rarely presents with symptoms early in the course of the disease. Hence it is important to go for regular health screenings for the liver including liver blood tests, ultrasound and Fibroscan liver stiffness measurement.
GUTCARE is Singapore’s digestive care specialist that handles every aspect of gastroenterology.