A gesture that is part of the routine of many of us could have a beneficial effect on liver health. Coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of developing chronic liver disease (such as hepatitis) and fatty liver, the excessive accumulation of fat in liver cells. Furthermore, it is not necessary to be an espresso purist: the preventive effect is found with all types of coffee, including instant and decaffeinated coffee.
Monitoring over time. Scientists at the University of Southampton (UK) analyzed data from 494,585 participants in the UK Biobank, a database used to study genetic or environmental factors associated with certain health conditions. Among these people were 384,818 coffee drinkers and 109,767 people who did not consume coffee. All participants were between 40 and 69 years old. The researchers followed them for a median of nearly 11 years in which they monitored their liver health. In this period there have been 3,600 cases of chronic liver disease with 301 deaths, and 1,839 cases of fatty liver, a condition that can lead to excessive inflammation of the organ and even serious complications.
Protective effect. After considering other factors that can impact liver health, such as smoking or alcohol habits and body mass index, it was found that those who drank coffee in any quantity and of any type had a decreased risk 20% of developing chronic liver disease or fatty liver compared to people who do not consume it. Coffee drinkers also ran a 49% lower risk of dying from these same causes. The protective effect increases with the amount of coffee consumed, but up to 3-4 cups per day: after this threshold no further benefits are observed. It has not been understood so far on which substance this apparent beneficial effect may depend.
A suggestion to be explored. The study published in the scientific journal BMC Public Health detects a simple association and not a cause and effect link: it is not possible at the moment to say with certainty that coffee in moderate doses protects the liver like a medicine, although clues to liver and kidney health and certain cancers have been found in other studies before. While waiting to understand if and how this positive association can be exploited, experts recommend taking care of the liver in the traditional ways, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, exercising, eating well and maintaining a healthy body weight.