Coffee is the daily beverage of choice for millions of people, and it’s easy to see why. It tastes great and hits you with an energy boost! But there are even more reasons to reach for a cup o’ Joe on the regular: A new study suggests coffee could play a key role in liver health.
Research published in Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology specifically looked at how coffee consumption affects hepatic fibrosis, which is when excessive connective tissue builds up around the liver in response to injuries, inflammation, or other health problems. Hepatic fibrosis is also a common symptom in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), where excess fat builds up around the liver. NAFLD affects roughly one in four Americans over the course of their lifetimes. Scientists investigated all academic literature on the links between coffee and NAFLD over a 35-year period between 1980 and 2015. All told, the combined experiments had a total of over 20,000 participants.
Overall, their findings were interesting: They discovered that people who drank coffee tended to be at a lower risk for NAFLD. Those who already had NAFLD or cirrhosis, which is scarring on the liver, were also protected from further damage. Drilling into their findings, they looked at coffee’s three main components: caffeine, chlorogenic acids, and diterpenes.
Their current belief is that caffeine lowers the number of liver enzymes and changes the signaling pathways in the organ. This leads to less connective tissue growth factor, a protein often associated with tissue buildup and inflammation around the organ. In other words, the caffeine stops liver from damage over time. However, researchers are still trying to piece together how chlorogenic acids and diterpenes benefit the liver in ways that other caffeinated drinks — such as soda or energy drinks — don’t.
There are two important caveats to these findings. First, these affects were generally seen in people drinking around three cups of coffee per day, which might be a lot to handle for some people. Second, the coffee needs to be caffeinated; decaf doesn’t show any added benefits on this front.
While there are some areas that scientists are still unpacking when it comes to the connection between coffee and liver health, it’s great to know that those few cups you have every day could be contributing to a stronger liver!