• Research suggests drinking coffee in moderation reduces the risk of chronic liver disease by a fifth.
  • Coffee drinkers were found to be less likely to develop fatty liver disease, liver cancer or die from chronic liver disease.
  • Three to four cups daily can help protect against a number of health conditions.

Your morning caffeine boost isn’t just helping kick-start your day - it might have health benefits as well. Drinking a few cups of coffee daily reduces the risk of chronic liver disease by over a fifth, according to a new study published in the online journal BMC Public Health.

World Coffee Consumption (2019-2020)
Europe is by far the largest consumer of coffee.
Image: Straits Research

Europe consumes more coffee than any other region, exceeding 3 million tonnes in 2019. That works out around 4.1 kilogrammes of beans per inhabitant. Germany is the biggest importer overall.

But despite its universal appeal, the humble coffee bean has at different times been labelled both a health hazard and a health boon. And while a morning mug of coffee can make you more alert and better able to concentrate, too much caffeine can lead to restlessness, feelings of anxiety and an increased heart rate.

Coffee drinking and liver disease
To investigate the impact of coffee on our health, scientists at the University of Southampton in the UK, analysed the UK Biobank's health data, which has been collected from almost half a million people over more than a decade.

Results suggest drinking coffee in any form - ground, instant, caffeinated or not - reduces the risk of developing chronic or fatty liver disease by 19%, liver cancer by 21% and cuts deaths from chronic liver disease by almost half. Liver diseases like these kill around two million people each year.

Positive health benefits were linked to people regularly drinking a moderate amount: three to four cups each day was found to be the optimum consumption level, with ground coffee slightly more beneficial than the instant variety.

“Coffee is widely accessible, and the benefits we see from our study may mean it could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease. This would be especially valuable in countries with lower income and worse access to healthcare and where the burden of chronic liver disease is highest,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Oliver Kennedy, told Medical News Today.

Researchers say drinking three to four cups of coffee a day can reduce deaths from chronic liver disease by almost half.
Image: Eurostat

Coffee’s health benefits
But health benefits associated with coffee consumption don’t stop there. Moderate but regular coffee intake could reduce the risk of other diseases, too. Here’s how:

Cancer - Coffee may influence the development of cancer cells in the body in several ways. By stimulating bile acids, for example, which speed up digestion through the colon, colon tissue could be exposed to fewer carcinogens. The American Institute for Cancer Research says that there is ‘probable evidence’ that drinking coffee reduces the risk of endometrial and liver cancers, and it could also have an impact on cancers of the skin, mouth and throat, although the evidence here is less conclusive.

This is in contrast to suggestions dating back to the 1990s linking coffee consumption with developing cancer, which have since been revoked.

Heart disease - A recent study of the role of diet and behaviour in heart failure found that increased coffee consumption was associated with reduced long-term risk. Researchers used AI to analyse existing datasets and found that one or more cups of coffee a day may reduce the occurrence of heart failure by nearly a third.

Neurological health - Several studies have linked caffeine consumption to a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Researchers are still not entirely clear what role coffee plays, with most attributing the protective effect to caffeine. Other recent research has suggested that some of the fatty acids contained in the drink may also influence the disease.

Depression - Drinking at least two cups of coffee daily has been linked to a reduced risk of depression, according to a meta-analysis commissioned by the US National Coffee Association. Separate research suggests that coffee constituents like caffeine, chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid and caffeic acid could all influence the pathology of depression.

So, armed with this knowledge, your next cup of coffee should be even more enjoyable.


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