Researchers from Southampton University in the UK found evidence that coffee may reduce the risk of alcohol-related liver damage. The more cups of coffee consumed within a day meant a significant reduction in the risk of developing liver cirrhosis. Their findings were published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
For their research, the team looked at nine studies on coffee and its effects on alcohol consumptions. The study had more than 430,000 participants and around 1,990 of that number were those diagnosed with cirrhosis. In eight of the studies, the researchers found that increased coffee consumption meant reduced risk of cirrhosis. A cup a day reduced the development of the disease by 22 percent, two cups reduced it by 43 percent, three cups decreased the risk by 57 percent and 4 cups yielded a 65 percent risk reduction.
"Cirrhosis is potentially fatal and there is no cure as such," lead author Dr. Oliver Kennedy of Southampton University said. "Therefore, it is significant that the risk of developing cirrhosis may be reduced by consumption of coffee, a cheap, ubiquitous and well-tolerated beverage. Coffee is a complex mixture containing hundreds of chemical compounds, and it is unknown which of these is responsible for protecting the liver."
Cirrhosis is a late stage condition that is characterized by liver damaged with scarring (fibrosis) in it. It is a degenerative disease that cannot be reversed, but early diagnosis can help maintain and prevent further damage. Advanced cirrhosis is fatal as the liver can no longer detoxify the body from harmful substances or clean the blood.
However, researchers say that while coffee may help with cirrhosis, it may not help with other adverse effects of drinking too much alcohol.
"Unfortunately, although coffee contains compounds that have antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties, drinking a few cups of coffee a day cannot undo the systematic damage that is the result of being overweight or obese, sedentary, excessive alcohol consumption or drastically mitigate an unhealthy diet," said Samantha Heller, nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York, who is not part of the team of researchers.
Some of the studies did not include factors such as obesity and diabetes, which led to the cirrhosis diagnosis of the patients in the studies. Liver damage caused by alcohol is also different for many people, especially among women who can't metabolize alcohol quickly compared to men. Kennedy states that with their findings, more research is needed before specific health recommendations are made.
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