In a study involving almost 500,000 adults from the United Kingdom, a team of scientists from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh Centre for Inflammation Research found that drinking coffee that is caffeinated (ground or instant) or decaffeinate was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee, with the benefit peaking at three to four cups per day.
Drinking any type of coffee is associated with a reduced risk of developing chronic liver disease and related liver conditions.
Chronic liver disease is a major health problem worldwide, particularly in low to middle-income countries with high disease burden and limited treatment availability.
The commonest aetiologies of chronic liver disease are alcohol-related liver disease, chronic hepatitis B and C infection, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. These conditions involve destruction and regeneration of liver parenchyma leading to liver fibrosis and then cirrhosis.
Coffee is a popular beverage in most societies. It comprises hundreds of chemical compounds, some of which are thought to have in vivo properties, including caffeine, chlorogenic acid, kahweol and cafestol.
Coffee consumption has been linked with lower rates of chronic liver disease, but little is known about the effects of different coffee types.
“The aim of our study was to investigate associations of coffee consumption, including the effects of different coffee types — and, thus, composition — with chronic liver disease outcomes in a large prospective cohort,” said lead author Dr. Oliver Kennedy from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton and his colleagues.
The researchers analyzed UK Biobank data on 495,585 participants with known coffee consumption, who were followed over a median of 10.7 years to monitor who developed chronic liver disease and related liver conditions.
Of all participants included in the study, 78% (384,818) consumed ground or instant caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, while 22% (109,767) did not drink any type of coffee.
During the study period, there were 3,600 cases of chronic liver disease, including 301 deaths. Additionally, there were 5,439 cases of chronic liver disease or steatosis, and 184 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee-drinkers had a 21% reduced risk of chronic liver disease, a 20% reduced risk of chronic or fatty liver disease, and a 49% reduced risk of death from chronic liver disease.
The maximum benefit was seen in the group who drank ground coffee, which contains high levels of kahweol and cafestol.
Instant coffee, which has low levels of these compounds, was also associated with a reduced the risk of chronic liver disease.
While the reduction in risk was smaller than that associated with ground coffee, the finding may suggest that other ingredients, or potentially a combination of ingredients, may be beneficial.
“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,” Dr. Kennedy said.
“This would be especially valuable in countries with lower income and worse access to healthcare and where the burden of chronic liver disease is highest.”
The results appear in the journal BMC Public Health.
O.J. Kennedy et al. 2021. All coffee types decrease the risk of adverse clinical outcomes in chronic liver disease: a UK Biobank study. BMC Public Health 21, 970; doi: 10.1186/s12889-021-10991-7