Coffee cuts liver disease death risk in half, study suggests

·3-min read
Close up hot cappuccino white coffee cup with heart shape latte art on dark brown old wood table at cafe,food and drink concept
Few subjects have incited as much health debate as caffeine. (Stock, Getty Images)

The health pros and cons of lattes, mochas or cappuccinos have long been debated.

An excessive intake has been linked to insomnia, digestive issues and even high blood pressure – but now it seems a morning coffee pick-me-up could do wonders for your liver.

After analysing more than 495,000 people over 10 years, scientists from the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh found that coffee drinkers were 21% less likely to develop any form of chronic liver disease.

Liver disease is an umbrella term for damage that is generally caused by an excessive alcohol intake, carrying a dangerous amount of weight, or being infected with hepatitis B or C. 

Over time, this can lead to scarring that prevents the organ from working properly, triggering life-threatening complications in severe cases.

Read more: Coffee reduces heart failure risk

The coffee drinkers' risk of dying from liver disease was also cut by 49%, the results show.

The findings – published in the journal BMC Public Health – remained the same regardless of whether the coffee was instant, ground or caffeinated.

Liver tumours, illustration.
Liver disease deaths have increased four-fold in the UK since the 1970s. (Stock, Getty Images)

"Coffee is widely accessible and the benefits we see from our study may mean it could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease," said lead author Dr Oliver Kennedy. 

"This would be especially valuable in countries with lower income and worse access to healthcare, where the burden of chronic liver disease is highest."

Read more: Coffee linked to lower risk of prostate cancer

Liver disease deaths have increased four-fold in the UK since the 1970s, killing more than 40 people a day. 

Although the disease is the third leading cause of death in the UK, nine in 10 (90%) cases are preventable by maintaining a healthy weight and drinking alcohol in moderation.

Coffee's bitter ingredients have previously been linked to improved liver health.

To learn more, the scientists analysed participants of the UK Biobank study.

Of the more than 495,000 participants, nearly four in five (78%) drank some form of coffee. 

Over the 10-year study, 3,600 cases of chronic liver disease arose, killing 301 of the participants.

Read more: Two cups of filtered coffee a day slashes type 2 diabetes risk

The coffee drinkers were 20% less likely to develop either chronic or fatty liver disease. The latter is specifically defined as a build-up of fat in the vital organ. Although alcohol can be to blame, patients are often overweight or obese.

It is unclear if the participants were a healthy weight or how much alcohol they consumed. How often they drank coffee is also unknown.

Watch: Younger people develop liver disease during pandemic

Coffees' benefits were seen across all types of the popular drink, but were most potent among those who consumed ground varieties.

Ground coffee contains the highest amounts of the compounds kahweol and cafestol, which have warded off chronic liver disease in animal studies.

The scientists stressed that the participants self-reported their coffee consumption at the start of the research, with their intake potentially changing over the 10 years. 

The participants were also predominantly white and from a privileged background, with the results not necessarily applying to other ethnicities or groups. 

Future research should more rigorously measure coffee consumption among a diverse range of participants, according to the scientists.

Watch: Alcohol deaths double in 20 years

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