Drinking more coffee could significantly reduce the risk of liver cancer and fibrosis, according to two separate recent studies.
Researchers from Southampton and the University of Edinburgh found that people who drink more coffee are less likely to develop hepatocellular cancer, which usually develops in patients with chronic liver disease.
They found that drinking one extra cup of caffeinated coffee a day was associated with a 20 per cent reduction in risk, two cups more with a 35 per cent reduction, and up to five cups halved it.
No data was available for those who drink more than five cups per day. Decaffeinated coffee was also found to be beneficial, though less so.
The observational study, which has been published in the journal BMJ Open, involved more than 2.25 million participants.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Oliver Kennedy, said: ‘Coffee is widely believed to possess a range of health benefits, and these latest findings suggest it could have a significant effect on liver cancer risk.’
‘Our findings are an important development given the increasing evidence of hepatocellular cancer globally and its poor prognosis.’
In a separate study, published in the Journal of Hepatology, researchers found that drinking coffee protects against liver fibrosis, which is scarring of the liver resulting from chronic inflammation.
The researchers, from Erasmus University in Rotterdam, gathered data from 2424 participants over the age of 45. All participants had an extensive physical examination, which involved blood sampling, hepatological imaging using abdominal ultrasound and a detailed liver scan. They also completed a food frequency questionnaire, which included analysis of coffee consumption.
They found that frequent consumption (more than 3 cups a day) was significantly associated with reduced odds of fibrosis. The results held regardless of other lifestyle, metabolic, and environmental factors.
The study’s lead author, Louise Alferink, said: ‘Over the past decades, we gradually deviated towards more unhealthy habits, including a sedentary lifestyle, decreased physical activity, and consumption of a ‘Happy Diet’. This Happy Diet, also known as the Western diet, is typically rich in unhealthy foods including processed foods lacking nutrients and artificial sugars.’
‘This has led not only to an obesity epidemic, but also to a rapid increase in the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is due to extensive accumulation of fat in the liver and resembles alcoholic liver disease in people who do not exceed two drinks a day of alcohol.’
‘In this context, examining accessible and inexpensive lifestyle strategies that have potential health benefits, such as coffee and tea consumption, is a viable approach to finding ways to halt the rapid increase of liver disease in developed countries.’