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Drinking coffee may cut risk of death from liver cirrhosis

Hot cup of coffeeConsuming at least two cups of coffee per day may reduce mortality risk from liver cirrhosis by roughly 66 percent, according to a new study. This beneficial effect was observed in people whose liver disease was caused by non-viral hepatitis.

The findings stem from a large study in Singapore that included 63,275 people aged 45 to 74. Participants took part in interviews from 1993 to 1998 that focused on diet, lifestyle choices and medical history. Researchers then kept tabs on the subjects for about 15 years, at which point nearly 15,000 had died. Of these, 114 deaths were caused by liver cirrhosis.

For participants suffering from non-viral hepatitis, drinking two cups of coffee daily was associated with reduced risk of death. However, drinking tea, soft drinks and fruit juice did not appear to impact mortality risk from liver cirrhosis. Alcohol, on the other hand, increased this risk.

“We postulate that the observation of the benefit of coffee on reducing the risk of liver cirrhosis mortality may be due to the effects of chemicals in the coffee, such as polyphenols, melanoidins and diterpenes, in reducing inflammation of the liver due to alcohol or non-alcohol fatty liver disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Woon-Puay Koh of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School of Singapore and the National University of Singapore.

According to Koh, coffee intake was not associated with reduced mortality risk for cirrhosis related to viral hepatitis B. However, previous research has suggested that coffee may reduce liver damage in those with chronic liver disease.

The World Health Organization reports that liver cirrhosis is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States. The condition refers to scarring of the liver that can be caused by a variety of factors including long-term disease or injury. According to the National Institutes of Health, this scarring impedes the liver’s ability to make proteins, clean the blood, fight infections and aid in digestion. The most common causes off liver cirrhosis in the U.S. are chronic alcoholism and hepatitis.

By Marianne Hayes