Drinking up to four cups of coffee a day could be linked to a reduced risk of developing chronic liver disease and associated liver conditions, new research shows.
Researchers at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh found that consuming caffeinated and decaffeinated versions of the drink was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee.
The benefit peaked at three to four cups per day, according to the study.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers had a 21% reduced risk of chronic liver disease, a 20% reduced risk of chronic liver disease or fatty liver disease, and a 49% reduced risk of death from disease. chronic hepatic.
The researchers say the maximum benefit was seen in the group who drank ground coffee, which contains high levels of the ingredients Kahweol and cafestol.
They say both of these substances have been shown to be beneficial against chronic liver disease in animals.
Instant coffee, which has low levels of Kahweol and cafestol, has also been linked to a reduced risk of chronic liver disease.
While the risk reduction is less than that associated with ground coffee, the finding may suggest that other ingredients, or potentially a combination of ingredients, may be beneficial, the study suggests.
Lead author Dr Oliver Kennedy said: “Coffee is widely available and the benefits we see from our study may mean that it could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease.
“This would be particularly useful in countries with low income and less access to health care and where the burden of chronic liver disease is greatest.”
The authors looked at UK Biobank data on 495,585 participants with known coffee consumption, who were followed for a median of 10.7 years to monitor who developed chronic liver disease and associated liver conditions.
Of all participants included in the study, 78% (384,818) drank caffeinated or decaffeinated ground or instant coffee, while 22% (109,767) did not drink any type of coffee.
During the study period, there were 3,600 cases of chronic liver disease, including 301 deaths.
There were also 5,439 cases of chronic liver disease or steatosis (a build-up of fat in the liver also known as fatty liver disease) and 184 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer.
However, the researchers caution that because coffee consumption was only reported when participants first enrolled in the study, the study does not account for any changes in the amount or type of coffee. coffee they consumed during the 10.7-year study period.
As the participants were predominantly white and from a higher socioeconomic background, the results may be difficult to generalize to other countries and populations, they add.
Future research could test the relationship between coffee and liver disease with tighter monitoring of the amount of coffee consumed, and the results could be validated in more diverse groups of participants.
The study is published in the journal BMC Public Health.