Coffee for Your Liver
Many people have trouble starting the day without a big mug of coffee. The caffeine provides a pick me up for those who aren't naturally early risers. But even decaf drinkers love the smell and flavor of their java. And new research suggests that it might be wise not to skip that morning brew. In fact, it appears that having several cups a day may offer some protective benefits to your liver.
The study, which took place at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, found that individuals who consume at least three cups of coffee daily tend to have lower levels of abnormal liver enzymes that signify damage within the organ.1 The subjects were 27,793 American adults who were 20 or older. They were participants in the longitudinal National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and they kept a log of the quantity of coffee they drank each day.
Blood samples were also taken from each of the volunteers to assess the levels of certain enzymes that are indicative of liver function. The enzymes measured were alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma glutamyl transaminase (GGT). In a normal, well functioning liver small traces of these enzymes are found circulating in the blood. However, elevated levels of these enzymes are a sign of poor liver health.
The subjects who drank three cups or more of coffee on a daily basis were found to have lower levels of all of these liver enzymes than did their peers who abstained from drinking coffee. If that sounds to you like a lot of caffeine to consume every day, the good news is that decaf was determined to be equally as effective as caffeinated coffee in providing advantages to the liver.
And that's not the only newsworthy information on coffee's positive effects on the liver. Another recent study, this one out of the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, showed that drinking a few cups of coffee a day may even help protect you from liver cancer and lower the risk of dying from chronic liver disease.2 This was based on research that began in the mid-1990s, involving more than 215,000 men and women residing in California and Hawaii.
The subjects were followed for 18 years, during which time 451 of the participants were diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, and 654 of the participants died due to chronic liver disease (CLD). However, the individuals who typically consumed two to three cups of coffee daily were found to have a 38 percent lower risk of developing HCC, and those who consumed four or more cups daily had a 41 percent lower risk as compared to those who drank no coffee. And when CLD was considered, those who drank two to three cups daily had a 46 percent reduced risk, and those who drank four or more cups daily had an incredible 71 percent drop in risk of mortality from the condition versus the volunteers who were not coffee drinkers.
Considering coffee's tremendous popularity, these findings will give many people reason to rejoice. After all, the liver is an extremely important organ responsible for helping rid the body of toxins. Just keep in mind that despite its growing list of benefits, coffee is also associated with insomnia, irritability, and gastrointestinal issues. A 2012 study at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston even found that drinking caffeinated coffee was associated with the development of a particular form of glaucoma.3 So while having four or five cups a day may sound wonderfully protective for your liver, it may also produce a number of not-so-wonderful results. If you are going to drink coffee daily, try to keep it to three cups a day noted in the study and drink them in the morning to give the caffeine the maximum amount of time to dissipate before bedtime approaches. And while decaf might appear to offer many of the advantages without the problems of caffeine, it should be noted that the drinking of decaf has been linked to elevated blood fat levels and an increased risk of heart attacks.4
- 1. Xiao, Q; et al. "Inverse associations of total and decaffeinated coffee with liver enzyme levels in HNANES 1999-2010." Hepatology. 13 August 2014. Accessed 15 October 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25124935
- 2. "Higher coffee intake may reduce liver cancer risk." University of Southern California. 16 May 2014. Accessed 17 October 2014. http://hscnews.usc.edu/higher-coffee-intake-may-reduce-liver-cancer-risk
- 3. Pasquale, Louis R.; et al. "The Relationship between Caffeine and Coffee Consumption and Exfoliation Glaucoma or Glaucoma Suspect: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts." Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. 23 August 2012. Accessed 17 October 2014. http://www.iovs.org/content/53/10/6427.abstract
- 4. Charlene Laino "Decaf Coffee May Raise Heart Risks." WebMD Nov. 16, 2005. (Accessed 17 Oct 2014.) http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/news/20051116/decaf-coffee-may-raise-heart-risks