Drinking two cups of coffee 'reduces health risks linked to alcohol'

Links found between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of liver damage caused by overindulging

Drinking two or more cups of coffee a day could significantly reduce health risks associated with drinking too much alcohol.

An analysis of previous studies found drinking coffee could diminish the likelihood of developing liver cirrhosis, a disease which kills thousands of people in the UK every year and more than a million people worldwide. 

The nine studies involved a total of 430,000 participants of which 1,990 had cirrhosis. Eight of the studies found the more coffee a person drank, the lower their risk in developing the disease.

Risk was reduced by 22 per cent with one cup of coffee, 43 per cent with two cups, 57 per cent with three cups and 65 per cent with four cups, compared to drinking no coffee at all.

The findings, published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, found stronger links between filter coffee and reduced cirrhosis risk than with boiled coffee - but the reason is not clear. 

“Coffee is a complex mixture containing hundreds of chemical compounds, and it is unknown which of these is responsible for protecting the liver,” said lead study author Dr Oliver Kennedy of Southampton University.

Although the studies accounted for alcohol consumption, other cirrhosis risk factors – such as obesity and diabetes – were not considered in all of them, the study’s authors noted.

Liver cirrhosis can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, hepatitis infections, immune disorders, and fatty liver disease, which is tied to obesity and diabetes.

“Cirrhosis is potentially fatal and there is no cure as such,” explained Dr Kennedy.

Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center, warned against adopting an unhealthy lifestyle and attempting to compensate with coffee.

She said: “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.”

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