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Believe It or Not: Coffee and Smoking May Protect you from Liver Disease

Harold Mandel's picture
A cup of refreshing coffee

Discussions about liver disease sets off shock waves in people due to the generally catastrophic consequences of diseases of the liver. Concerns about potential extreme pain and suffering and premature death from liver disease rose to new heights after the shocking news of the premature death of Steve Jobs in 2011 from primary pancreatic cancer, which lead to a liver transplant prior to his death at 56 years old. So everyone is interested in ways to protect the liver from disease, and news that coffee and smoking of all things may do so is groundbreaking. However, keep in mind although some coffee daily may be a good idea for a lot of people, smoking overall remains a killer overall.

There is not much known about nongenetic risk factors for an entity which is called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), aside from the possible protective effect of smoking, reports the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Researchers decided to investigate the relationship which exists between environmental risk factors and susceptibility to primary sclerosing cholangitis.

However, in spite of the fact that this research showed a protective effect for sclerosing cholangitis from smoking, the negative effects of smoking on overall health should be kept in mind. In spite of this research, smoking has still been found to harm nearly every organ of the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking is the primary causative factor in many diseases and lowers the health of smokers in general. In the United States alone the negative health effects from cigarette smoking account for greater than 440,000 deaths, or about one of every five deaths, every year.

The researchers proceeded by distributing a questionnaire to patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis who were recruited from Oslo University Hospital in Norway, along with randomly chosen individuals from the Norwegian Bone Marrow Donor Registry as control subjects. Data were than analyzed from 240 patients suffering from primary sclerosing cholangitis and 245 control subjects.

It was discovered that a smaller proportion of patients suffering from primary sclerosing cholangitis were daily coffee drinkers than were control subjects. The same association was found for smokers. The researchers concluded that coffee consumption and smoking might actually protect against the development of primary sclerosing cholangitis. And in women there might also be influences from hormonal factors.

This study shows that coffee and cigarette smoking may really protect you from the rare liver disease known as primary sclerosing cholangitis, according to Oslo University Hospital. This study from Norway which was published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, showed that coffee consumption and cigarette smoking potentially protect against primary sclerosing cholangitis. This is a chronic liver disease which is caused by chronic inflammation of the bile ducts.

This study has aroused great interest in view of increasing knowledge dealing with coffee as being a possible protective agent in dealing with other liver diseases. This study was done by researchers at the Norwegian PSC Research Center which is based at Oslo University Hospital and the University of Oslo.

The study demonstrated that the primary sclerosing cholangitis patients had lower coffee consumption both currently and in their early adult life, which has suggested that coffee consumption may protect against the development of this disease. However, the patients who drank coffee had decreased levels of liver enzymes in the blood, which therefore suggested a beneficial effect in the liver.

Among cigarette smokers, it was observed only 20 percent of the patients reported ever daily cigarette smoking, in comparison with 43 percent of the healthy controls. Furthermore, cigarette smokers acquired this disease on the average about 10 years later than the non-smokers. These observations have confirmed and have also strengthened previous observations that smoking has a possible protective influence for primary sclerosing cholangitis.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis is a very uncommon disease. It is a very severe condition which affects primarily young adults who are from 30-40 years old. There is a high risk of associated cancer of the bile ducts with primary sclerosing cholangitis. There are few good treatment options available for this disease. Primary sclerosing cholangitis is therefore one of the most important reasons for liver transplantation.

The possible protective effect of smoking in dealing with primary sclerosing cholangitis appears to be rather unique to this particular liver disease. However, coffee consumption has been shown to protect against multiple other liver conditions which include liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Now coffee consumption has also been shown to protect against primary sclerosing cholangitis.

For the moderate drinker, coffee may actually be safe, writes Harvard Health Publications. Many people avoid caffeinated coffee because they are concerned about its health effects. However, research has revealed that in moderation, meaning a few cups a day, coffee may be a safe beverage which may even offer some health benefits.

Studies have shown that drinking coffee may have the following benefits:

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1: Lower risk for type 2 diabetes

2: Lower the risk of developing gallstones

3: Less rick of the development of colon cancer

4: Improved cognitive function

5: Reduces risk of liver damage in people at high risk for liver disease

6: Reduced risk of Parkinson's disease

7: Improved endurance performance in long-duration physical activities

Drinking coffee has been associated with many health benefits, which is good news for the many coffee drinkers worldwide, reports EmaxHealth reporter Deborah Mitchell.

However, there can be some problems with coffee. Caffeine, which is coffee's main ingredient, is a mild addictive stimulant. Also, coffee does have modest cardiovascular effects such as:

1: Increased heart rate

2: Increased blood pressure

3: Occasional irregular heartbeats

The negative effects of coffee generally emerge with excessive drinking, and it is therefore advisable to avoid heavy coffee consumption.

It has been my observation that there is an increased interest in the health benefits of coffee. However, I do not think it is wise to make a blanket statement that everyone can benefit from drinking coffee. It is important to make certain your cardiovascular status is not ultra sensitive to coffee. If your heart is in good shape and some coffee does not cause unusually high spikes in your blood pressure and irregular heart beats, than some coffee daily may have health benefits for you. I suggest having your physician check your cardiovascular status and discuss whether or not some coffee may be alright for you. Decaf may be an option for it's anti-diabetic effects and the enjoyable taste.

As for smoking, well although it is interesting that smoking may be associated with a lower incidence of primary sclerosing cholangitis, in view of the compelling evidence of the association of smoking with lung cancer and other life threatening pulmonary problems, I can not advise anyone that smoking cigarettes is a good idea. In separate article for EmaxHealth I have written that the FDA has the right idea with graphic smoking warnings. I suggest instead leading a healthy lifestyle with daily exercise and good nutrition along with adequate daily rest and avoidance of smoking and alcohol to help offer you the best chances of optimal overall well being.