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Science: Decaffeinated coffee may help protect against chronic liver disease

A new study studying coffee and chronic liver disease has been published in BMC Health Journal in June 2021. Headed up by researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh, they considered if there was a connection with drinking coffee (either caffeinated or decaffeinated) with chronic liver disease outcomes.

How was the study carried out?

The scientists analysed data on 495,585 participants with known coffee consumption who were then followed over an average of over 10 years to monitor who developed chronic liver disease and related liver conditions.

The results of the mass data number crunching were as follows:

  • 78% of participants consumed coffee regularly – instant or roast coffee – caffeinated or decaffeinated.
  • 22% of participants did not drink any type of coffee.
  • Of the 495,585 respondents, there were 5,439 cases of chronic liver disease or steatotis, including 301 deaths

What were the results of the study?

This comprehensive analysis has a number of striking conclusions:

  • Drinking any type of coffee, caffeinated or decaffeinated, was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee, with the benefit peaking at three to four cups per day.
  • Compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee-drinkers had a 21% reduced risk of chronic liver disease, a 20% reduced risk of chronic or fatty liver disease, and a 49% reduced risk of death from chronic liver disease.
  • The maximum benefit of seen was seen in the group who drank roast ground coffee – either caffeinated or decaffeinated.
  • The researchers posit the reason that ground coffee is most potent is that it contains higher levels of the ingredients Kahweol and cafestol than instant coffee.
  • Instant coffee, which has lower levels of Kahweol and cafestol was also associated with a reduced the risk of chronic liver disease, but less so than ground coffee.
  • The researchers suggest that more research needs to be undertaken to test the relationship between coffee and liver disease with more rigorous control of the amount of coffee consumed.
  • It is not known which compounds are exactly responsible for the potential protective effect against chronic liver disease, but the fact that all types of coffee are protective indicates that a combination of compounds may be at work.


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