Healthy Choices

Drinking coffee can help reverse liver damage caused by alcohol, study says

October 20th, 2020

Most of us already associate coffee with alcohol, but it’s usually reserved for the morning after. A cup of coffee seems like the perfect and traditional drink to get over a hangover, but it turns out that the caffeinated drink can actually be beneficial for a lot of other reasons too.

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According to a relatively recent study from Southhampton University, people who regularly drink coffee have a reduced risk of getting cirrhosis of the liver.

Cirrhosis is a potentially very dangerous condition that can even be fatal in some cases. Cirrhosis basically means that your liver is actually covered in scarred tissue, usually due to long-term effects by toxins.

These toxins can be viruses such as hepatitis C, but it’s much more likely that these toxins are related to alcohol consumption.

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People with liver cirrhosis have a greatly increased risk of liver failure or cancer. Over one million people die of liver cirrhosis every single year, although this number also includes people with immune disorders and fatty liver disease.

Not all of them were caused by excessive alcohol intake, but it is one of the most important factors.

The Southhampton researchers began by looking into nine other long-term studies, for a total of 430,000 participants.

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They researched all the available data, and they astonishingly found a marked correlation between coffee consumption and the presence of liver cirrhosis.

“Cirrhosis is potentially fatal and there is no cure as such,” Dr. Oliver Kennedy of Southampton University university explained, who is also the lead study author.

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“Therefore, it is significant that the risk of developing cirrhosis may be reduced by consumption of coffee, a cheap, ubiquitous and well-tolerated beverage,” he added.

The researchers completely dissected and analyzed nine previous studies, which is how they were able to get data on so many participants.

Out of the nine studies, eight of them have shown that the risk of cirrhosis declined strongly when coffee intake increased.

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One cup of coffee a day can result in a 22% decreased risk of developing cirrhosis, two cups decrease the risk by 43%, and an extra cup makes it jump to 57%.

Amazingly, people who drank four cups (or more) had a 65% lower risk of developing liver cirrhosis.

Of course, there are a couple of important factors that should be taken into consideration.

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Elizaveta Kozorezo Source: Elizaveta Kozorezo

For example, there’s a stronger correlation between a decrease in liver cirrhosis and filtered coffee, compared to boiled coffee.

In other words, it depends on how you make your coffee- and the researchers definitely don’t recommend drinking four caramel cappuccinos or pumpkin spice lattes every single day.

“Coffee is a complex mixture containing hundreds of chemical compounds, and it is unknown which of these is responsible for protecting the liver,” Dr. Samantha Heller at NYU Lagone Medical Center said, who was not involved in the British study.

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It’s also worth noting that this study isn’t perfect, of course. While the link between coffee consumption and alcohol was definitely investigated, it didn’t take other elements into account that could cause liver cirrhosis, such as diabetes and obesity.

In conclusion, there definitely seems to be some truth to coffee’s ability to help reverse damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

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Nonetheless, it’s most definitely not a wonder drug and not a magical way to counteract unhealthy lifestyles.

“Unfortunately, although coffee contains compounds that have antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory properties, drinking a few cups of coffee a day cannot undo the systematic damage that is the result of being overweight or obese, sedentary, excessive alcohol consumption or drastically mitigate an unhealthy diet,” Dr. Heller concluded.

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Source: Reuters, University of Southampton