Can Coffee Help Your Liver?

Lots of people drink coffee every day to help rev them up in the morning or lift them out of an afternoon slump. But java may do more than perk you up. Researchers have found that it might be good for you in other ways, especially for your liver.

Prevent Disease

Researchers have found that coffee drinkers may be less likely to have:

  • Liver cancer
  • Cancer in the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium
  • Fibrosis, a disease that makes scar tissue form inside your liver. It’s a reaction to conditions like hepatitis or alcohol use disorder.
  • Cirrhosis, a late stage of fibrosis. As this disease gets worse, your liver has a harder time doing its job.
  • Non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, which develops when the liver cells store too much fat. This also keeps your liver from working like it should.

If you’re a big-time coffee lover, the news gets better. The more you drink, the more your chances of liver disease go down. In one study, researchers found that putting away 2 cups a day cut the odds of cirrhosis by 44%, and 4 cups a day lowered them by 65%.

Fighting Disease

If you already have a problem with your liver, coffee may help with that. Research shows that moderate amounts, typically between 1 and 3 cups a day, may slow down the following conditions:

  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease

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How It Helps

In addition to caffeine, coffee has more than 1,000 chemicals. Doctors are still trying to figure out what the body does with them that makes coffee helpful. Here are a few pieces of the puzzle:

When your body digests caffeine, it makes a chemical called paraxanthine that slows the growth of the scar tissue involved in fibrosis. That may help fight liver cancer, alcohol-related cirrhosis, non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, and hepatitis C.

Two chemicals in coffee, kahweol and cafestol, may help fight cancer. Doctors aren’t sure how powerful the effect is, but some think moderate amounts of unsweetened coffee could work alongside the main treatments for the most common kind of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma.

Acids in coffee may work against the virus that causes hepatitis B. One study found that decaf coffee could have the same benefit.

Studies have found that coffee helps men and women equally. And the benefits show up no matter how the coffee is made -- filtered, instant, or espresso.

Coffee as Medicine

Doctors think coffee might become an important weapon in the fight against liver disease. After all, it’s easy to get and doesn’t have to cost much.

But at this point, doctors don’t know enough to recommend any specific amount. And coffee may not be for everyone. Even though it might help your liver, it may raise your chances of other conditions.

For example, some chemicals in it may raise your cholesterol level or blood pressure. That could be a caution sign for:

No matter how good coffee might be for you, the key to taking care of your liver is still your lifestyle. Eat healthy food, go easy on the alcohol, watch your weight, and get regular exercise.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on November 23, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Antiviral Research: “Anti-hepatitis B virus activity of chlorogenic acid, quinic acid and caffeic acid in vivo and in vitro.”

British Liver Trust: “Coffee and the Liver,” “Coffee consumption and the liver—the potential health benefits.”

Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: “Coffee and Health: A Review of Recent Human Research.”

Hepatology: “Coffee intake is associated with lower rates of liver disease progression in chronic hepatitis C,” “Inverse associations of total and decaffeinated coffee with liver enzyme levels in NHANES 1999-2010.”

Mayo Clinic: “Cirrhosis,” “Does coffee offer health benefits?” “Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease: “Mid-life coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: a population-based CAIDE study.”

News release, Elsevier: “Take a coffee or tea break to protect your liver.”

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