For some people that morning cup of Joe is the
perfect way to start the day. Surprisingly, there are many published
studies that show that caffeinated coffee can improve the health of
the liver and provide other health benefits. There are some caveats to
these health claims that I will discuss at the end of this article.
First let’s talk about the good news—the possible health benefits:
1. Liver Fibrosis / HCV Disease Progression:
In a review of 177 patients—121 patients with HCV who drank about 2 ¼
cups of coffee a day were found to have reduced levels of liver
fibrosis. The results were only found in those who drank caffeinated
In another review, 766 participants in the
Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment against Cirrhosis (HALT-C)
trial found more good news. Those who had hepatitis C-related
bridging fibrosis or cirrhosis on a liver biopsy and who failed to
achieve a cure after being treated with pegylated interferon and
ribavirin therapy also yielded some surprising results. Those with
advanced liver disease who regularly consumed coffee were found to have
lower rates of HCV disease progression.
2. Liver Cancer:
A small study found that people who drank one to three cups of coffee a day had a 29% lower risk of developing liver cancer compared to those who drank 6 cups or less a week.
Another study which reviewed 16 different studies
involving over 3,200 patients found that drinking more than 3 cups of
coffee a day might cut the risk of liver cancer by up to 50%.
3. Other Conditions:
There are many studies that show a link between the reduction or
prevention of certain types of cancers and drinking caffeinated coffee
(skin, breast, colon, prostate, uterine, oral). There are also studies
that show that caffeinated coffee can lower the risk of diabetes and
4. The Downside:
Now, I am going to burst the bubble! Coffee, specifically caffeine,
is a drug (a stimulant). Moreover, with any drug you can have
withdrawal: It can take more than eight weeks to withdraw entirely from
caffeine—although, caffeine withdrawal is usually just an annoying
headache and some light fatigue.
Drinking or consuming caffeine can raise blood
pressure, lead to heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), can cause
cramps, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal health issues. If you drink
it too close to bedtime, it can cause insomnia. Too much caffeine can
cause depression, anxiety and other types of nervous behaviors.
Although rare there have been serious health consequences from people
drinking energy drinks and shots.
Examples of the typical amount of caffeine:*
Coffee – 100 mg per cup
Tea – 14 mg to 60 mg per cup
Chocolate – 45 mg in 1.5 oz bar
Most colas (unless they are labeled “caffeine-free”) – 45 mg in 12 oz. drink
Candies, energy drinks, snacks, gum – 40-100 mg per serving
There are many other side effects of caffeine, but I will stop here.
However, for most people caffeine in moderation is safe and
5. Final Thoughts:
What does all of this mean? It is hard to draw concrete conclusions
from these studies because you cannot measure what people drink, how it
is made and what chemicals are in the coffee. However, there must be
something in caffeinated coffee that is contributing to all of these
positive outcomes. There are over 1,000 natural chemicals in coffee,
and some of these chemicals may be contributing to the caffeine and
providing these benefits. Scientists are studying the various
chemicals, and we may soon have more concrete information that may lead
the way to more potent medications to treat many conditions. In the
meantime, it could not hurt to have a cup of Joe—that is if your health