By Sara Bondell - June 25, 2021
A daily cup of coffee may reduce your risk for liver disease and possibly cancer, according to a new study.
The study, conducted in the United Kingdom and published in the journal BMC Public Health, suggests coffee drinkers are 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 compared to those who do not drink coffee. The study also found a suggestion that coffee can reduce liver cancer, though results were based on few liver cancers in the study period.
The type of coffee — decaffeinated or caffeinated — did not seem to matter, although the benefit seemed to be found mainly in those who drank ground coffee instead of instant.
“The reason for this is unclear, although ground coffee has higher levels of certain chemical compounds known to have anti-inflammatory properties,” said Dr. Kathleen Egan, an epidemiologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. “Mechanisms for possible health benefits of coffee are unknown, but research has focused on the role of plant compounds known as polyphenols, which coffee beans are rich in.”
For the study, researchers looked at the coffee habits of more than 494,000 people in the U.K. and monitored their liver health over 11 years. The participants were predominately white, so Egan says it’s important to exercise caution when applying the findings to a broader audience.
“From a public health perspective, coffee is ubiquitous exposure and there seems to be few downsides with its use,” said Egan. “Indeed, we used to worry that coffee might increase cancers like bladder cancer, but that has not held up in the better studies. Rather, coffee has been linked if anything to reduced incidence of several cancers and also neurodegenerative diseases.”
However, Egan says you should limit your coffee to no more than four cups a day because higher levels of intake have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Worldwide, liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death. While liver cancer occurs in about 42,000 individuals a year — accounting for about 2% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. — it is one of the more lethal cancers with a five-year survival rate of only about 20%. Risk factors for the disease include chronic hepatitis B and C infections, cirrhosis, smoking and heavy alcohol use. There is also growing concern in the U.S. about liver cancer’s link to obesity.