- Study suggests coffee drinkers have a 21 per cent lower risk of developing chronic liver disease than non-coffee drinkers
- Researchers at the University of South Hampton studied the medical histories and coffee consumption of half a million Britons
- They found the drink contains compounds thought to dampen down inflamation
- Caffeine is also believed to combat harmful liver scarring
Coffee drinkers may be protected against liver problems in later life.
They have a 21 per cent lower risk of developing chronic liver disease than non-coffee drinkers, say researchers who studied the medical histories and coffee consumption of half a million Britons.
The drink contains compounds called kahweol and cafestol which are thought to dampen down inflammation which can damage the liver. The compounds are at higher levels in ground coffee.
Caffeine, meanwhile, is believed to combat harmful liver scarring. Dr Oliver Kennedy, author of the study published in the journal BMC Public Health from the University of Southampton, said: ‘Coffee is widely accessible and the benefits we see may mean it could offer a potential preventative treatment.’
One in three Britons are thought to have early non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is more common in the overweight.
It can lead to chronic liver disease if it gets worse. Chronic liver disease can also be caused by excessive drinking, and viral hepatitis.
But researchers found coffee appears to ward off the serious condition, with those who drink it regularly 49 per cent less likely to die from chronic liver disease than non-coffee drinkers.
The results come from almost half a million people in the UK, who provided information on their coffee consumption and access to their medical records.
The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, looked at 494,585 people aged 40 to 69 from the UK Biobank study.
More than three-quarters were regular coffee drinkers, averaging two cups a day.
Followed up for an average of 10 years, 3,600 people developed chronic liver disease and 301 people died from it.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, those who drank coffee had a 21 per cent lower risk of developing chronic liver disease and a reduced risk of the most common type of liver cancer, called hepatocellular carcinoma.
Ground coffee, such as an espresso, appeared to be most beneficial, although this finding was not statistically significant, as not enough people in the study drank this type of coffee.
Ground coffee, rather than the instant kind, contains high levels of kahweol and cafestol, which studies in animals suggest protect against chronic liver disease.
However all types of coffee, including instant and decaffeinated, were linked to lower odds of liver conditions.
The more coffee people drank each day on average, the lower their risk of chronic liver disease and a build-up of fat in the liver called ‘steatosis’.
But the potential benefits of coffee seemed to level off at around three or four cups a day, so that drinking five or more provided no extra protection for the liver.
The study adds to the evidence that coffee may be good for the liver, and is the first to directly investigate different types of coffee and their link to liver conditions in such a large group of people.
But the study authors say more research is needed before coffee can be recommended to people at risk of liver disease.