Save Your Liver, Drink More Coffee

Coffee+might+be+giving+us+more+than+just+a+caffeine+boost.

Hon-Lum Cheung-Cheng

Coffee might be giving us more than just a caffeine boost.

By Catalina Gonella, Contributing Writer

Coffee has long been known to be a college student’s best friend. It keeps us awake during boring lectures, helps us pull all-nighters and gives us that extra boost of energy we all so desperately need. As it turns out, this same magical beverage could also be protecting our livers. A recent review of nine different scientific studies concluded that drinking coffee might actually reduce the kind of liver damage that is associated with overindulgence in food and alcohol.

Dr. Oliver Kennedy and his colleagues at Southampton University in the U.K. analyzed data from nine previously published studies with more than 430,000 participants. They found that having two cups of coffee a day may reduce the risk of developing liver cirrhosis by 44 percent. Liver cirrhosis, which kills more than one million people worldwide, involves the hardening and destruction of liver tissue and can be caused by many factors such as hepatitis infection, immune disorders, fatty liver disease and excessive alcohol consumption.

The researchers did a pooled analysis of average coffee consumption across earlier studies in order to find how much adding two cups of coffee each day may affect the odds of developing liver disease. Together, the studies included 1,990 patients with cirrhosis.

Compared to no coffee consumption, researchers estimated that drinking one cup a day was linked to a 22 percent lower risk of cirrhosis, two cups per day reduced the risk by 43 percent, three cups by 57 percent and finally, four cups reduced the risk of cirrhosis by 65 percent.

However, some of the findings also left the researchers puzzled. For example, they found that the link between coffee and reduced liver damage had a stronger correlation when using filtered coffee instead of boiled coffee. In addition, while studies accounted for alcohol consumption, they didn’t account for other cirrhosis risk factors like obesity and diabetes, as was noted by the authors of the Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics journal.

CAS junior Malasia Apparicio pointed out that, for college students, this correlation could be specifically beneficial.

“During college there’s a rise in alcohol consumption but there’s also an increase in coffee consumption. Now I wonder if that has something to do with us not having too many consequences from the drinking,” Apparicio said.

But as Kennedy cautioned, patients shouldn’t take the findings to mean that loading up on frothy caramel lattes packed with sugar is a good way to prevent liver disease.

Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center who wasn’t involved in the study also pointed out that coffee isn’t powerful enough to counteract lifestyle choices that can severely damage the liver.

“Unfortunately, although coffee contains compounds that have antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties, drinking a few cups of coffee a day cannot undo the damage that is the result of being overweight or obese, being sedentary, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, or eating an unhealthy diet,” Heller said.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 29 print edition. Email Catalina Gonella at [email protected]