Claim: Coffee consumption reduces mortality risk from liver cirrhosis

Posted by Thomas Anderson

New research reveals that consuming two or more cups of coffee each day reduces the risk of death from liver cirrhosis by 66%, specifically cirrhosis caused by non-viral hepatitis.

Findings in Hepatology, a journal published by Wiley on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, show that tea, fruit juice, and soft drink consumption are not linked to cirrhosis mortality risk. As with previous studies heavy alcohol use was found to increase risk of death from cirrhosis.

A 2004 report from The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year 1.3% of total death worldwide is caused by liver cirrhosis. Previous research shows that 29 million Europeans have chronic liver disease, with 17,000 deaths annually attributed to cirrhosis. Further WHO reports state that liver cirrhosis is the 11th leading cause of death in the U.S.

"Prior evidence suggests that coffee may reduce liver damage in patients with chronic liver disease," said lead researcher, Dr. Woon-Puay Koh with Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore and the National University of Singapore. "Our study examined the effects of consuming coffee, alcohol, black tea, green tea, and soft drinks on risk of mortality from cirrhosis."

This prospective population-based study, known as The Singapore Chinese Health Study, recruited 63,275 Chinese subjects between the ages of 45 and 74 living in Singapore. Participants provided information on diet, lifestyle choices, and medical history during in-person interviews conducted between 1993 and 1998. Patients were followed for an average of nearly 15 years, during which time there were 14,928 deaths (24%); 114 of them died from liver cirrhosis. The mean age of death was 67 years.

Findings indicate that those who drank at least 20 g of ethanol daily had a greater risk of cirrhosis mortality compared to non-drinker. In contrast, coffee intake was associated with a lower risk of death from cirrhosis, specifically for non-viral hepatitis related cirrhosis. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a chronic liver disease related to the metabolic syndrome and more sedentary affluent lifestyle, likely predominates among the non-viral hepatitis related cirrhosis group. In fact, subjects who drank two or more cups per day had a 66% reduction in mortality risk, compared to non-daily coffee drinkers. However, coffee intake was not associated with viral hepatitis B related cirrhosis mortality.

"Our study is the first to demonstrate a difference between the effects of coffee on non-viral and viral hepatitis related cirrhosis mortality," concludes Dr. Koh. "This finding resolves the seemingly conflicting results on the effect of coffee in Western and Asian-based studies of death from liver cirrhosis. Our finding suggests that while the benefit of coffee may be less apparent in the Asian population where chronic viral hepatitis B predominates currently, this is expected to change as the incidence of non-viral hepatitis related cirrhosis is expected to increase in these regions, accompanying the increasing affluence and westernizing lifestyles amongst their younger populations."