A new study brews up some good news for avid coffee drinkers.
Consuming three to four cups of joe a day may reduce the risk of liver cancer and other alcohol-related liver diseases, according to findings released Monday in the peer-reviewed medical journal BMC Public Health.
Researchers studied the coffee habits and liver health of nearly a half-million Brits in a biomedical database over 11 years.
The subjects of the study were men and women between the ages of 40–69. About 385,000 of them were heavy coffee drinkers.
The study found that the daily grinders were 21 percent less likely to develop chronic liver disease, 20 percent less likely to develop fatty liver disease and nearly half as likely to die from liver ailments, compared to those that abstained.
People that drank ground caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee saw greater liver benefits than those that drank instant coffee, according to the study, which researchers said was the first of its kind.
“It confirms in a large UK cohort that coffee drinking is protective against severe liver disease,” Prof Paul Roderick, a co-author of the study from the University of Southampton, told The Guardian.
Researchers noted that while three to four drinks of daily coffee offered the most protection against liver disease amongst the study participants, those that drank five cups or more saw their risk reduction decrease.
“There is likely a level beyond which increasing coffee consumption confers no further benefit,” the study said.
The authors said their results may be limited by the demographics of the voluntary participants, who were largely white and more affluent than the general population.
Vanessa Hebditch, of the British Liver Trust, told The Guardian that while it appears to be helpful, coffee should not be seen as a magic bullet for liver health.
“It’s important that people improve their liver health not just by drinking coffee,” she said, “but by also cutting down on alcohol and keeping to a healthy weight by exercising and eating well.”
Liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, according to the World Cancer Research Fund. The organization notes that it is “probable” that drinking coffee reduces the risk of the disease.
Recent studies have found daily coffee drinking is linked to a reduced risk of heart failure and obesity, however these benefits can be negated by drinking too much, or choosing sugary drinks.