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By Lizzie Powell

Coffee & Health

A new report by the British Liver Trust 

‘Coffee consumption and the liver – the potential health benefits’, is a new British Liver Trust report that substantiates coffee’s role in good liver health. Compiled in June 2016, it is the first time that the entire body of current research and evidence has been reviewed and recorded in a single report. 
It considers research published by bodies including the World Health Organisation, the European Food Safety Authority and the European Association for the Study of the Liver. The report provides evidence that:
  • Regularly drinking moderate amounts of coffee may prevent liver cancer – the World Health Organisation has recently confirmed this reduced risk after reviewing more than 1,000 studies
  • Coffee also lowers the risk of other liver conditions including fibrosis (scar tissue that builds up within the liver) and cirrhosis
  • Drinking coffee can slow the progression of liver disease in some patients
  • Beneficial effects have been found however the coffee is prepared – filtered, instant and espresso 
The evidence in this report shows that drinking coffee can protect a person from developing liver disease and in addition reduces the risk of progressive disease for those already affected. There is an epidemic of liver disease in the UK and the numbers affected are growing at an alarming rate. 
The report emphasizes that regular coffee drinking can be part of a healthy, balanced diet and the scientific evidence that suggests that moderate coffee consumption may actually offer a number of benefits. 
Daily Mail (22.6.16): How coffee could be your liver's saviour: Drink shown to protect against a host of deadly diseases. 
“The British Liver Trust today adds to the growing weight of evidence around the health benefits of drinking coffee, publishing an 83-page report summarising all existing research on the subject. It concludes that coffee protects against fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis and liver cirrhosis – all severe conditions which can be fatal.”   
Times (28.6.16):A cappuccino a day is what the doctor orders (as long as it’s under 65C) 
“Professor Graeme Alexander…..introducing a report this month called ‘the Health Benefits of Coffee’. “At last” he crowed “liver physicians have found a lifestyle habit that is good for your liver! It doesn’t matter where the patient comes from, or what type of liver disease they’ve got, it appears in large studies that coffee reduces the risk of liver scarring, fibrosis and liver cancer.” 
Liver disease is one of the most important health issues in the UK – it is estimated that at least one in five of us are affected. Currently, in the UK, liver disease is the: 
  • third main cause of premature death - the rate of death from the disease for those under the age of 65 years has increased by almost 500% since 1970
  • only major cause of death still increasing year-on-year
  • fifth ‘biggest killer’ after heart, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease 
Epidemiological evidence suggests that there is an inverse association between moderate coffee consumption and the risk of developing a range of liver diseases including cancer, fibrosis and cirrhosis. Studies in patients with a variety of liver diseases have all found moderate coffee drinking has a positive effect on limiting the rate at which disease progresses. In essence: 
  • Drinking moderate amounts of coffee may help to reduce the risk of liver cancer, and the risk of developing liver cancer falls as coffee consumption rises
  • Moderate coffee consumption may also be related to a slower progression of chronic liver disease. Patients who consumed a higher quantity of coffee have been found to display a milder course of fibrosis, especially in those with alcohol related liver disease
  • The association between moderate coffee consumption and a slower rate of fibrosis has also been seen in patients with hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis, non-alcohol related liver disease and Hepatitis C
  • Patients with Hepatitis C who have a higher consumption of coffee, have a lower rate of disease progression than those who drink less coffee
  • Caffeine consumption has been related to slower development of cirrhosis in patients scheduled for liver biopsy
  • Several different coffee components besides caffeine are being investigated for their beneficial interaction with the liver. Kahweol and cafestol, naturally-occurring compounds in coffee, have revealed certain anti-carcinogenic properties, while chlorogenic and caffeic acids indicate anti-viral characteristics
  • One of the breakdown products of caffeine, paraxanthine, has been shown to slow down the growth of the type of tissue seen in liver fibrosis, alcohol related cirrhosis and liver cancer
  • It is not yet fully clear whether, and to what extent, caffeine may be responsible for the reduction in risk of developing these diseases but it is thought to play a positive role
  • Research shows coffee consumption is not associated with gastrointestinal dysfunction 

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