Coffee and Your Liver

Coffee and Your Liver

A cup of joe, morning fuel, or your ‘think juice’— love it or hate it, coffee undeniably has deep roots in our modern society.  According to the global marketing research company, Euromonitor, Canadians ranked No. 1 for coffee consumption in 2015, guzzling an average of 152 litres per person.  The good news for this clearly coffee-obsessed nation is that drinking black coffee may be one of the best things you can do for your liver.

For decades, the effect of coffee consumption on the liver has been a widely studied topic. With a multitude of positive results, it’s becoming increasingly clear that coffee may not deserve the bad reputation it sometimes receives. While the reasoning behind coffees health benefits remains speculative, researchers believe it may have to do with the beverages antioxidant effects.

Several research studies have shown that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day may benefit people who have liver disease.

Most recently, a 2017 study demonstrated that coffee and tea can protect against liver fibrosis; the scarring of the liver (also known as cirrhosis in its advanced stages). [1].  The results of the study analyzing 2,500 people found that drinking at least three cups of coffee daily was “significantly associated” with less scarring of the liver. Of course, the authors did conclude that more studies need to be done to determine the amount and type of coffee that can better improve liver health.

Some more promising evidence of coffee’s curative effects comes from studies on diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the main culprit as to why 1 in 4 Canadians may be affected by liver disease.

In 2013, research observing dietary factors in patients with NAFLD found an association between drinking coffee and some improvements or “reversals” of NAFLD’s progression[2]. This research may suggest that in addition to implementing dietary and lifestyle changes (such as regular physical activity), drinking coffee may be crucial in slowing the progression of liver damage in people who have NAFLD.

Photo courtesy of medicalnewstoday.com

But, that is not all! A 2017 study from the UK has even shown that coffee can diminish the likelihood of developing liver cancer by 25 to even 50%[3]. Examining data from 26 observational studies consisting of more than 2.25 million people, researchers found that coffee may have a significant effect on liver cancer the more you drink it. The working theory is that this reduction in risk may be due to coffee’s protective effect on the liver since liver cancer can develop due to any existing damage in the liver.

Before you pour that pot a little too generously for the days to come, there are some helpful caveats about coffee and your liver health that are worth mentioning.

First, coffee should not be mistaken as a “detoxifying” tool (a myth that in fact, does not exist for liver health). Because researchers are still uncertain about how to interpret these findings, you should still consult your health care provider to see whether coffee should or should not be avoided.

Of course, your best pathway to liver health also consists of a healthy diet and regular exercise. Dousing your coffee with lots of cream and sugar can counteract the benefits of this powerful beverage, so use these in moderation or try it black!

Finally, caffeine may deplete the body of crucial minerals such as calcium, and therefore may not be recommended for you, please consult with your doctor to find out.

Coffee can be a great asset to living a liver healthy life. Enjoy this newfound knowledge and remember, take time to smell the coffee!

[1] Coffee and tea breaks for liver health. Petta, Salvatore et al. Journal of Hepatology, Volume 67, Issue 2, 221 - 223

[2] Marchesini G, Marzocchi R, Sasdelli AS, Andruccioli C, Domizio S Di. Dietary factors in the pathogenesis and care of patients with fatty liver disease. In: Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Practical Guide. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2013:248-259.

[3] Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Buchanan R, et al. Coffee, including caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, and the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis BMJ Open 2017;7:e013739. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2016-013739

8 thoughts on “Coffee and Your Liver

  1. Hello…..I just had a Liver Transplant in Halifax on Nov 6 th 2017.
    Would I be a candidate for participating in on going studies with a fee $ ?
    Thank you.

    Scott Kirk.

    1. Hi Scott, in order to best answer your question, please contact our National Support Line at 1 (800) 563-5483 Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM EST, or email us at clf@liver.ca. Thanks!

    1. Hi Joan,

      To best answer your questions about NAFLD, please reach out to our National Support Line at 1 (800) 563-5483 Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM EST or anytime at clf@liver.ca

      Thanks!

    1. Hi Patty,

      In the studies that have been reviewed and included in this article, researchers believe the improvements that coffee provides on the liver is due to antioxidants. Therefore, since caffeine would be unrelated, decaf could certainly be a great option for your liver.

      For more info, feel free to contact our National Support Line at 1 (800) 563-5483 Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM EST or anytime at clf@liver.ca

  2. Hi, Several years ago the Liver Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital recommended coffee as well. I completed 2 sessions of interferon therapy with a 1 year break in between.

    Great News ! I am clear !

    Question : the articles on coffee speak of BLACK COFFEE, HOWEVER, i love my lattes.
    Will this prove to be as beneficial as having an espresso ?

    1. Hi Carol,

      Thanks for your great comment, we’re happy to hear you’ve had success with your treatment.

      The studies mention black coffee for a couple of reasons. For one, it is the coffee itself that is being studied for its effectiveness. Therefore if the study looked at those that consumed coffee with milk, cream, sugar, flavouring etc., it could beg the question that any effects proven could’ve come from any of the other additives.

      Finally, the Canadian Liver Foundation encourages the drinking of black coffee as an abundance of cream and sugar (as some coffee-drinkers like to indulge in) is not always best for your liver, which will convert the excess of these ingredients into fat. That is not to say cream and sugar are absolutely off the table. Simply, it is best to keep them to a minimum or eliminate them for the best effect of coffee.

      We hope that helps! If you have any other questions, please contact us at 1 (800) 563-5483 Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM EST at email us at clf@liver.ca.

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