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Drinking coffee may benefit the liver

In brilliant news for coffee lovers higher consumption of both regular and decaffeinated coffee has been linked to lower levels of abnormal liver enzymes. Elevated levels of liver enzymes may be a sign of liver damage or inflammation.

This was the finding of a new study from the National Cancer Institute, published in the Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.

Lead researcher Qian Xiao of the National Cancer Institute points out that prior research found drinking coffee may have a possible protective effect on the liver, but the evidence was not clear whether this benefit extends to decaffeinated coffee.

To address this question, Xiao and colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the health of Americans. Participants are not only interviewed for this survey, they also undergo physical examinations including blood tests.

The 27,793 people aged 20 and over taking part in the survey reported the amount of coffee they consumed over the past 24 hours. To determine liver health, their blood samples were examined for several markers of function, including:

  • aminotransferase (ALT)
  • aminotransferase (AST)
  • alkaline phosphatase (ALP)
  • gamma glutamyl transaminase (GGT)

Those who said they drank three or more cups of regular or decaf coffee a day had lower levels of ALT, AST, ALP and GGT compared to people who consumed no coffee.

“Our findings link total and decaffeinated coffee intake to lower liver enzyme levels,” concludes Dr Xiao. “These data suggest that ingredients in coffee, other than caffeine, may promote liver health.” He adds that further studies are needed to identify these components.

Other studies have found drinking coffee to be associated with reduced risks of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, dementia, cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Coffee Stats

The International Coffee Association reports that coffee consumption has increased one percent each year since the 1980s, rising to two percent in recent years.

According to Roy Morgan research, average coffee consumption by Australian adults has actually declined slowly but steadily from 10.5 cups per week to 9.2 cups. This despite café visitation being on the rise, along with ownership of coffee-making machines.

The proportion of Australians aged 18-plus who go to a café for a coffee or tea in an average three-month period grew from 54 percent in the 12 months to December 2009, to 56 percent in the year to December 2013. Meanwhile, the increase in people who own coffee makers during the same time frame rose from 28 percent to 36 percent.

Not surprisingly, those who work long hours rank among Australia’s biggest coffee drinkers. In the year to December 2013, people who clocked upwards of 60 hours in any given week consumed an average 10.1 cups weekly, compared to 8.8 for those who worked 35-39 hours, and 8.6 for non-workers.

Equally unsurprising is the finding that having children also increases the need for caffeine. Average weekly coffee consumption for the child-free is 7.2 cups; for parents, this shoots up to 9.6 cups.

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