For many of us, mornings aren’t complete without a cup or two of coffee. In fact, it is one of the world’s most popular beverages with more than 450 billion cups being consumed each year.
Coffee has yet to be considered a healthy drink, but many studies suggest that regular, moderate coffee consumption can lower a person’s risk of developing a range of liver diseases including cancer, fibrosis and cirrhosis.
Coffee has a high antioxidant level and is highly beneficial for your liver health. Research even hints at its anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
To reap the benefits of coffee, stick to just 2 or 3 cups per day and avoid drinking it before bedtime.
Coffee and Liver Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a chronic liver disease that replaces healthy liver tissue with scar tissue, resulting in blockage of blood flow to the liver. This in turn affects liver functioning.
Cirrhosis causes around 1 million deaths every year, and can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, hepatitis infections, immune disorders and fatty liver disease.
According to the Global Burden of Disease Study (2013), cirrhosis resulted in 1.2 million deaths in 2013, up from 0.8 million deaths in 1990.
Increasing your coffee intake to 2 cups daily may help reduce your chances of developing alcohol-related cirrhosis. This is what a 2016 study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics says.
In the study, researchers analyzed nine different studies that examined the relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of cirrhosis. The nine studies were published between 1994 and 2015 and involved 1990 cases and 432 133 participants.
Eight studies showed that increasing coffee consumption by 2 cups per day was associated with a statistically significant reduction in the risk of cirrhosis.
The caffeine in coffee metabolizes into a substance called paraxanthine, which prevents the growth of connective tissue, so the development of liver cirrhosis is postponed.
Coffee and Liver Cancer
Liver cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer deaths worldwide. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2016 about 39,230 new cases of liver cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. Also, about 27,170 people are likely to die from liver cancer in 2016.
To lower your risk of liver cancer, drink 2 cups of coffee daily. Coffee contains about 100 active compounds including antioxidants, polyphenols and caffeine, which play a key role in reducing the risk of liver cancer. Coffee also affects liver enzymes.
A 2005 study published in the International Journal of Cancer for the first time concluded that coffee intake is significantly associated with a decreased incidence of liver cancer.
Even people with a history of liver disease showed an inverse association between coffee consumption and the risk of liver cancer.
Another meta-analysis published in Gastroenterology in 2007 suggests that an increased consumption of coffee may reduce the risk of liver cancer. It shows that the risk of liver cancer is reduced by 44 percent for each 2 daily cups.
Similarly, a 2013 study published in BMC Gastroenterology suggested an inverse association between coffee consumption and liver cancer.
Coffee and Hepatitis C
Coffee is even beneficial for hepatitis C-related liver disease.
According to the World Health Organization, over 130 to 150 million people have chronic hepatitis C.
It is a contagious disease that causes inflammation and infection of the liver. It can range in severity and be classified as either acute or chronic. There is no vaccination to prevent hepatitis C.
In a 2009 study published in Hepatology, some 766 hepatitis C-infected patients were analyzed for nearly four years. It was found that regular coffee consumption was statistically significantly associated with lower rates of disease progression.
In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Hepatology, a total of 238 treatment-naïve patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) were studied. In this study, the potential hepatoprotective properties of caffeine were found to be effective in protecting against chronic liver diseases.
Caffeine intake of greater than 408 mg/day (3 cups or more) is associated with reduced histological activity in patients with CHC.
A hospital-based cohort study in 2013 included a total 376 patients suffering from hepatitis C virus (HCV). For 12 months, researchers examined the effect of coffee consumption on serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) level among these patients.
After one year, it was found that daily consumption of filtered coffee had a beneficial effect on the stabilization of ALT levels. This study was published in PLOS One journal.
Coffee and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition in which fat builds up in the liver for reasons unrelated to drinking alcohol. This disease is common and is a reversible condition that can be resolved with lifestyle and dietary changes.
One dietary change is drinking 2 cups of coffee per day.
In a 2010 study published in Digestive Disease and Sciences, researchers compared 137 patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease with a group of 108 other patients.
The study findings showed a positive connection between coffee intake and higher degree of bright liver (measured by ultrasound bright liver score), along with insulin resistance and obesity.
Later, a 2012 study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics found caffeine to have a protective effect in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Another 2012 study published in the Annals of Hepatology reports that the peripheral antioxidant activity of caffeine in coffee is associated with lower grade nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Recently, a meta-analysis of 118 studies found that although total caffeine intake is not associated with the prevalence or hepatic fibrosis of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, regular coffee caffeine consumption may significantly reduce hepatic fibrosis in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
This study is published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology in 2016.
Other potential health benefits of coffee (when consumed in moderation) include:
- Lowering the risk of colorectal cancer
- Lowering the risk of developing multiple sclerosis
- Reducing the risk of premature death
- Lighting mood and fighting depression
- Protecting against Type 2 diabetes
- Reducing your chances of getting skin cancer
- Boosting your physical performance
- Helping you burn fat and lose weight
These benefits can be enjoyed only when you drink coffee in moderation, which means not more than 3 cups a day. High intake of coffee can cause insomnia, anxiety, restlessness and high cholesterol. In addition, avoid coffee if you’re pregnant.
Tips to drink coffee in a healthier way
- Always choose a quality brand, preferably organic coffee.
- Buy whole coffee beans and grind them at home to enjoy better taste and quality.
- Drink just 2 or 3 cups of coffee per day and not more than that.
- Do not drink coffee on an empty stomach as it can cause a sharp drop in blood sugar, which can then set up more sugar cravings.
- Do not drink coffee after 2 p.m.
- Avoid sugar or artificial sweetener in your coffee.
- Do not use commercial low-fat and artificial creamers.
- Drink it after having your meal.
- To improve the taste, add a little bit of cinnamon powder.
- Brew your coffee using a paper filter.