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Coffee Lowers Liver Disease Risk, Plus Five Other Benefits

Coffee and liver disease

That cup of coffee you enjoy every morning could do more than help you wake up; it could reduce your risk of liver disease. Results of a new study note that that drinking coffee on a regular basis is associated with a lower risk of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). But stick around: there are five other benefits from drinking coffee as well.

Coffee may be good for your liver

At the recent Digestive Disease Week 2013 conference in Orlando, Florida, researchers reported on their findings after examining two groups of patients with liver disease: those with PSC and another group with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC). A group of health individuals was used as the control.

The investigators found that coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of developing PSC, but not PBC. This finding held true even though patients with PSC were less likely to drink coffee than were healthy individuals. The study’s findings are of particular interest because they reveal information about these two forms of liver disease.

A translation of primary sclerosing cholangitis reveals that “sclerosing” means scarring or hardening of the bile ducts in the liver that is the result of chronic inflammation, while “cholangitis” refers to inflammation of the bile ducts. PSC is chronic, progressive, and its cause is unknown. The end result is liver damage and liver failure, and although there is no cure, a liver transplant can be performed in individuals who have severe liver damage.

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Primary biliary cirrhosis also is a chronic condition in which the bile ducts are gradually destroyed. The bile ducts are essential for digestion and eliminating certain toxins from the body, and their destruction can lead to irreversible liver damage. PBC is believed to be an autoimmune disease (one in which the body attacks its own cells and tissues), and the cause is unknown.

According to one of the study’s authors, Craig Lammert, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, “our first-time finding points to a novel environmental factor that also might help us to determine the cause of this and other devastating autoimmune diseases.” The study’s senior author, Konstantinos Lazaridis, MD, a hepatologist at Mayo Clinic, commented that their findings “might tell us about the causes of these diseases and how to better treat them.”

Other health benefits of coffee
Although you probably don’t need a reason to enjoy your coffee every day, here are five more health benefits that cup of java can offer you and your family.

  • Alzheimer’s disease. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease explained how a moderate amount of coffee consumption (3 cups daily, caffeinated) appears to help older adults with mild cognitive impairment not progress to Alzheimer’s disease or at least cause a significant delay in development of the disease. The study’s lead author, Dr. Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at the University of South Florida College of Pharmacy, noted that the findings suggest “that moderate daily caffeine/coffee intake throughout adulthood should appreciably protect against Alzheimer’s disease later in life.”
  • Breast cancer. A Swedish study found that women who drank more than 5 cups of coffee daily could reduce their risk of developing anti-estrogen-resistant, estrogen-receptor (ER-negative) breast cancer by 57 percent. Although researchers are not sure why coffee has a significant effect on ER-negative breast cancer, one idea is that coffee may contain substances that have a different effect on different ER subtypes, of which there are four.
  • Endometrial cancer. A Harvard School of Public Health study found that women who drank more than 4 cups of coffee per day had a 25 percent reduced risk of developing endometrial cancer. In the study, which followed women for 26 years, women who consumed less than 4 cups daily had a 7 percent lower risk of developing this type of cancer.
  • Stroke. A study published in a 2011 issue of Stroke reported that women who drink more than 1 cups of coffee per day have a 25 percent lower risk of having a stroke than women who don’t drink their java. Authors of the large-scale study, which involved nearly 35,000 women who were followed for a decade, noted that the high levels of antioxidants in coffee are likely the reason for the benefit.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Several studies have indicated that coffee can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and one group of researchers in particular believe they know a reason why. The Chinese investigators noted that coffee contains compounds (i.e., caffeine, caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid) that inhibit an activity that plays a key role in causing the disease; namely, the misfolding of a substance called human islet amyloid polypeptide, a process that can cause type 2 diabetes. Four or more cups of coffee daily may provide this benefit, according to researchers.

Coffee consumption has been associated with a number of health benefits, which is good news for the many coffee drinkers around the world. This latest study indicates that coffee can help lower the risk of liver disease, which is one more health advantage associated with the consumption of coffee.

Cao C et al. High blood caffeine levels in MCI linked to lack of progression to dementia. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 2012; 30(3): 559-72
Cheng B et al. Coffee components inhibit amyloid formation of human islet amyloid polypeptide in vitro: possible link between coffee consumption and diabetes mellitus. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 2011; 59(24): 13147-55
Li J et al. Coffee consumption modifies risk of estrogen receptor negative breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research 2011; 13:R49.
Mayo Clinic

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