Drinking three to four cups of coffee can reduce risk of chronic liver disease

There’s more to your morning cup of coffee than you might imagine. It turns out it could be protecting you from liver disease.

But does it depend if your preference is for caf or decaf? No. Apparently, drinking coffee – whether it’s caffeinated or decaffeinated (ground or instant) – is linked to a lowered risk of developing chronic liver disease and other liver conditions.

Researchers at the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh have found drinking any type of coffee comes with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee, with the benefit peaking at three to four cups per day (a bit much for me).

The authors studied data from 495,585 coffee drinkers from the UK Biobank and followed them for over 10 years monitoring who developed chronic liver disease and related liver conditions.

Around four out of five participants drank ground or instant caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, while two out of 10 didn’t drink any type of coffee at all. Over the 10 years, there were 3,600 cases of chronic liver disease, including 301 deaths. Additionally, there were 5,439 cases of fatty liver disease or steatosis (a build-up of fat in the liver), and 184 cases of liver cancer.

Compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee-drinkers had a 21% reduced risk of chronic liver disease, a 20% reduced risk of fatty liver disease, and a 49% reduced risk of dying from chronic liver disease. The greatest benefit was seen in the group who drank ground coffee, which contains high levels of kahweol and cafestol, which have been shown to be beneficial against chronic liver disease in animals probably because they protect the body from oxidative stress.

When it comes to instant coffee, which has low levels of kahweol and cafestol, there was a reduced risk of chronic liver disease, though the reduction in risk was smaller than with ground coffee.

Dr Oliver Kennedy, the lead author, said: “The benefits we see from our study may mean it could offer a preventative treatment for chronic liver disease. This would be valuable in countries with lower income and worse access to healthcare where the burden of chronic liver disease is highest.”

The authors suggest that future research could test the relationship between coffee and liver disease with more control of the amount of coffee consumed. They also propose validating findings in more diverse groups of people.