As if you needed another reason to pour yourself another cup of joe, your morning pick-me-up could also improve your liver health. That’s right, a growing body of research suggests that drinking coffee could help ward off liver damage and reduce your liver cancer risk — by a lot.
Coffee and Liver Cancer
It may not come as a shock to you that drinking coffee has a lot of health benefits. Science has pointed to the beverage’s ability to reduce your diabetes and heart disease risk, and it’s also been linked to improved cognitive functioning and brain health in older adults. However, you may be surprised to learn that coffee has some serious protective effects on your liver.
There are a few theories about how coffee boosts liver health. Health experts say that it’s likely because, for one, coffee contains high amounts of caffeine. When we digest caffeine, a chemical called paraxanthine is produced in the body, which slows the growth of scar tissue in the liver. Scar tissue builds up when the organ is damaged, and over time, the inflammation and liver injury gets worse — a condition known as liver fibrosis. When this happens, blood flow becomes restricted, impairing the livers’ metabolic functioning. This, ultimately, leads to more serious conditions like liver cancer and failure. Drinking coffee, however, has been associated with a slowing down of liver fibrosis, and may thereby prevent these conditions.
Coffee also contains over 1,000 different plant compounds, including kahweol and cafestol. Research suggests that these two antioxidants may protect the liver from the free radical damage and inflammation that causes disease. Interestingly, these two compounds were specifically found to induce cancer cell death and reduce the growth rate of cancerous tumors. Several other studies have found that increasing coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of liver cancer and disease.
So how much coffee do you need to drink to protect your liver? That depends. According to one review of studies on the relationship between coffee and liver cancer, the more coffee you drink, the lower your risk of cancer. The team observed that specifically, drinking two cups of coffee per day was associated with a 43 percent reduced risk of getting liver cancer. That’s huge!
That being said, medical experts over at the Cleveland Clinic suggest that if you want to prevent liver problems from developing, it might be a good idea to consume three cups of coffee per day. On the other hand, if you have a history of liver disease or damage, drinking as many as four to six cups per day could help stop the problem in its tracks. Just be careful to slowly up your intake, as increasing caffeine in your diet can cause other negative side effects like sleep problems, anxiety, and jitteriness.
Here’s to a happy, healthy liver!