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Drinking coffee linked to better liver health

Saras Ramiya
26 Jan 2018

A roundtable report from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) shows drinking coffee may reduce the risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis.

The roundtable was chaired by Professor Graeme Alexander, of University College London and senior advisor to the British Liver Trust, and included academics and representatives from national liver associations from seven European countries. The roundtable was held at the Royal Society of Medicine in London to discuss the most recent research on coffee and liver health and the potential mechanisms behind a suggested reduced risk of liver disease. [www.coffeeandhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Expert-Report-Looking-after-the-liver.pdf]

Some of the key points brought up by the roundtable include coffee consumption may reduce liver cancer by up to 40 percent [Hepatology 2007;46:430–435, Gastroenterology 2007;132:1740–1745, Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2013;11:1413–1421] and the risk of cirrhosis from 25 to 70 percent [Ann Epidemiol 1993;3(4):375–381, Eur J Epidemiol 1994;10(6):657–664, Ann Epidemiol 2002;12(3):202–205]; while the risk of chronic liver disease was reduced by 25 to 30 percent in low coffee consumers, and up to 65 percent in high coffee consumers. [Eur J Cancer Prev 2017;26(5):368–377]

According to Alexander, it is likely that liver cancer develops from an existing liver disease. Therefore, he said that the association between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of liver cancer may be linked to an effect of coffee drinking on liver disease.

“Liver disease is on the rise across Europe and it is important that we understand how coffee, one of the most popular drinks in the world, and diet affects the disease. Research suggests that coffee may reduce the risk of liver diseases and it is important patients have access to dietary information and advice from healthcare professionals in a manner that is easy for them to understand and act upon,” said Alexander.

Experts at the roundtable also discussed the diagnosis of liver disease and low awareness of the condition among patients. This is because liver health is not a priority in some European countries compared with other conditions such as heart disease though the liver is a vital organ.

Liver disease is a significant concern across Europe, where chronic liver disease is the fifth most common cause of death and approximately 29 million people in the European Union suffer from a chronic liver condition. [www.easl.eu/medias/ EASLimg/Discover/EU/54ae845caec619f_file.pdf, www.nefmi.gov.hu/letolt/eu/ks_cd_06_001_en.pdf]

“Liver disease is a silent killer as often there are no symptoms until it’s too late. Coffee is something that is easily accessible to everyone and regularly drinking it—filtered, instant or espresso—may make a difference in preventing and, in some cases, slowing down the progression of liver disease. It is an easy lifestyle choice to make,” said Judi Rhys, chief executive, British Liver Trust.

ISIC is a not-for-profit organization, established in 1990 and devoted to the study and disclosure of science related to coffee and health. Since 2003, ISIC also supports a pan-European education programme, working in partnership with national coffee associations in nine countries to convey current scientific knowledge on coffee and health to healthcare professionals. ISIC members are six of the major European coffee companies: illycaffè, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Lavazza, Nestlé, Paulig, and Tchibo.
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