“Coffee can be a wonderful natural medicine.”
People who drink more coffee are “significantly” less likely to develop liver cancer, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Open. These findings support increasing evidence that coffee may have protective benefits for liver health, and may even counteract damage from alcohol consumption.
Researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh examined data from 26 studies, involving more than 2.25 million participants. They found that people who drink more coffee are less likely to develop hepatocellular cancer (HCC), the most common form of primary liver cancer. The effect is dose-dependent: meaning the more coffee consumed, the greater the effect.
Compared with non-coffee drinkers:
- Those who drank 1 cup of coffee each day had a 20% lower risk of developing HCC
- Two cups of coffee daily reduced the risk by 35%
- Drinking up to 5 cups may slash the risk by 50%
The protective effect was observed among those who were existing coffee drinkers and those who were not. Decaffeinated coffee also showed some benefit, reducing risk by 14%.
“Coffee is widely believed to possess a range of health benefits, and these latest findings suggest it could have a significant effect on liver cancer risk,” said lead author Dr. Oliver Kennedy, University of Southampton.
Peter Hayes, from University of Edinburgh, added, “Coffee has also been reported to reduce the risk of death from many other causes. Our research adds to the evidence that, in moderation, coffee can be a wonderful natural medicine.”
According to the British Liver Trust, certain compound molecules in coffee have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and other beneficial properties. This could explain the lower rates of chronic liver disease and liver cancer found among coffee-drinkers.
While more research needs to be done, increasing evidence suggests that coffee may have a range of potential health benefits. Last year, the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency issued an unprecedented positive reclassification of the beverage, saying that there is evidence that drinking coffee may actually lower the risk of developing specific cancers.
Compiled by Kyra Auffermann, NCA