Coffee Drinkers May Be Less Likely to Develop Chronic Liver Disease

A new study from the U.K. finds that increased coffee consumption may lower the risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease

Coffee Drinkers May Be Less Likely to Develop Chronic Liver Disease
Scientists analyzing health care data found that regular coffee consumption correlated with lower risk of liver trouble. (Alexander Spatari/Getty Images)
Jul 6, 2021

For many people, drinking a fresh cup of coffee in the morning is a routine they can't live without. And now, research has found evidence that a cup of joe might just help you live a healthier, longer life by preventing chronic liver disease.

In a recent study conducted by a team of researchers at Scotland's University of Edinburgh and England's University of Southampton and published online in BMC Public Health, the authors write, "Chronic liver disease (CLD) is a growing cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, particularly in low- to middle-income countries with high disease burden and limited treatment availability." CLD can be caused by genetic disorders, other diseases or long-term alcohol abuse.

Past research has linked coffee consumption with lower rates of CLD. The new UK study not only confirms those findings, but also finds that different types of coffee (decaffeinated, instant and ground coffee) all help prevent incidents of CLD and reduce deaths from CLD.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from the U.K. Biobank, a study that has been building a biomedical database of genetic and health information of 494,585 participants in the U.K. since 2006. The participants are men and women, ranging in age from 40 to 69 when they enrolled between 2006 and 2010, with no history of CLD. Participants were surveyed on their average coffee, tobacco and alcohol consumption, as well as which types of coffee they consume.

Since the study began, the team found 3,600 cases of chronic liver disease, with 301 deaths. After accounting for other variables such as alcohol consumption, smoking habits and body mass index, researchers were able to conclude that "all types of coffee are protective against CLD." Coffee drinkers had a 21 percent lower risk of getting CLD and a 49 percent lower risk of dying from it than those who did not drink coffee regularly.

The research found that although decaffeinated, instant and ground coffee all help prevent CLD, ground coffee had the largest effect. The most significant results came from individuals consuming three to four cups a day, but, "Further increases in consumption provided no additional benefit," they wrote.

Despite establishing strong evidence of a link, the study does not definitively prove causation between coffee consumption and reduced risk of CLD.

The study included a large sample size, wide range of baseline health and genetic data and detailed data of coffee consumption. However, participants were only surveyed once within the 11-year period on their coffee consumption habits, so the research does not take into account changes in the amount and/or type of coffee consumed. Likewise, data was not collected on past coffee consumption habits.

Despite those limits, the researchers believe the findings, "Are significant given the paucity of effective preventative and treatment strategies for CLD, especially in low- to medium-income countries, where the burden of CLD is highest."


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