Drinking three to four cups of coffee a day may reduce your risk of liver cancer and other alcohol-related liver diseases, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at the coffee habits of more than 494,000 people in the UK Biobank, a biomedical database, and monitored their liver health over 11 years.
Participants ranged from 40 to 69 years old, with 384,818 saying they were avid coffee drinkers, and 109,767 saying they were not. People who drank ground caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee saw the most benefits, while some reduction in risks was also found in instant coffee drinkers.
Coffee drinkers were 21% less likely to develop chronic liver disease, 20% less likely to develop chronic or fatty liver disease, and 49% less likely to die of chronic liver disease than non-coffee drinkers, according to the study published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is most common in people who are overweight, have diabetes, high cholesterol or high triglycerides. The disease affects up to 25% of people in the United States, according to the American Liver Foundation
“It confirms in a large UK cohort that coffee drinking is protective against severe liver disease,” said Prof Paul Roderick, a co-author of the study from the University of Southampton, told The Guardian.
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The maximum benefit was found in people who drank three to four cups a day; any higher consumption didn’t show additional benefits, according to the study.
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Vanessa Hebditch, of the British Liver Trust, told The Guardian that the study results further prove the theory that coffee is good for liver health.
“However, it’s important that people improve their liver health not just by drinking coffee,” she said, “but by also cutting down on alcohol and keeping to a healthy weight by exercising and eating well.”
One of the major limitations to the study is that the participants were asked only about their coffee consumption at one point in time and then monitored for their health. For example, if someone changed their daily coffee intake from one to four cups of coffee a day over the 11-year period, researchers weren’t able to take that into account.
The study goes on to say that it cannot definitively prove coffee itself reduces the risk of chronic liver disease.
“It does, however, raise the issue that it might be an effective intervention to prevent severe liver disease, say in those at high risk,” Roderick said.
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