Drinking more coffee might help reduce liver damage associated with binging in alcohol, a review of existing studies suggests.
Southampton University researchers from the UK analysed data from nine previous studies encompassing information from more than 430,000 people.
They found that drinking two additional cups of coffee a day was linked to a 44 per cent lower risk of developing liver cirrhosis, a disease associated with a long-term lifestyle of heavy drinking that kills more than one million people every year worldwide.
“Cirrhosis is potentially fatal and there is no cure as such,” lead author Dr. Oliver Kennedy told the New York Post, “Therefore, it is significant that the risk of developing cirrhosis may be reduced by consumption of coffee, a cheap, ubiquitous and well-tolerated beverage.”
In addition to binging on booze, cirrhosis can be caused by hepatitis infections, immune disorders and fatty liver disease, which is linked to obesity and diabetes.
In eight of the nine studies analysed, Kennedy and colleagues found an increase in coffee consumption by a few cups a day reduced the risk of one developing liver disease significantly.
They estimated one cup a day was tied to a 22 per cent lower risk of cirrhosis, while two cups lowers your risk by 43 per cent, three cups by 57 per cent and four cups by 65 per cent.
However, further research needs to be done to answer some unresolved questions, such as possible discrepancies between the benefits of filtered coffee versus boiled coffee, or the difference in coffee’s advantages in diabetes-triggered cases of cirrhosis over alcohol-triggered cases.
Kennedy said patients shouldn’t interpret the findings to mean loading up on double caramel lattes packed with sugar and topped with whipped cream to reduce their risk of liver disease.
In fact, researchers aren’t even sure what exactly it is about coffee that protects the liver, so you might want to hold off on going all out on booze and caffeine.
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“Coffee is a complex mixture containing hundreds of chemical compounds, and it is unknown which of these is responsible for protecting the liver,” Kennedy said.
A senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center, Samantha Heller, told the New York Post that coffee alone isn't powerful enough to undo the damage done to the liver due to excessive lifestyle choices.
“Unfortunately, although coffee contains compounds that have antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties, drinking a few cups of coffee a day cannot undo the systematic damage that is the result of being overweight or obese, sedentary, excessive alcohol consumption or drastically mitigate an unhealthy diet,” Heller said.
At least this means now we can feel better about reaching for that second or third cup of coffee in the afternoon.