Is your daily coffee fix beneficial for your health?
Attention coffee aficionados: Your daily java fix may actually be beneficial for your health. A new study finds that those who drink one to three cups of coffee a day have a significantly lower risk of liver cancer.
The extensive study, which began in the 1990s, was recently presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in San Diego. Researchers analyzed the coffee drinking and lifestyle habits of nearly 180,000 Americans. Participants were followed over the course of 18 years to determine how many developed a common form of liver cancer known as hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). According to the National Cancer Institute, there are approximately 4.9 cases of HCC per 100,000 Americans.
The study found that daily coffee consumption (one to three cups per day) was associated with a 29 percent lower risk of HCC, compared to drinking six cups or less per week. The serious coffee drinkers of the group—those who consumed four or more cups per day—had a 42 percent lower risk of developing the disease. These reductions held true even after controlling for other factors that could increase the risk of liver cancer, including obesity, diabetes, smoking and drinking.
“This is an association study, which means that drinking coffee is associated with a lower incidence of hepatocellular cancer, it is not a cause-and-effect study,” says Dr. John Brems, general surgeon with Advocate Medical Group and Director of the Center for Liver and Pancreatic Care at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill. “It may be that coffee drinkers have something in common that lowers their risk of liver cancer rather than the coffee itself.”
While researchers found that the greater the coffee consumption, the lower the risk of developing liver cancer, a cause-and-effect relationship isn’t clear. “This is an interesting study that lends itself to further research to examine the different chemicals and compounds in coffee to decipher what substance may be the beneficial compound that prevents liver cancer,” Dr. Brems says.
Coffee contains nearly 1,000 different substances and is thought to have an impact on liver enzymes indicating damage and inflammation, based on information from the Harvard Health Letter.
The study also found that regular coffee drinkers had lower incidences of cirrhosis of the liver. This irreversible scarring, commonly seen in patients with alcoholism or Hepatitis C, can lead to liver cancer and end-stage liver disease.
“It appears that coffee has anti-inflammatory properties that prevent cirrhosis,” Dr. Brems says. “If this association is proven, then coffee could be beneficial for patients who have hepatitis C and are at a higher risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver.”
According to Dr. Brems, this is not the first study to find the health benefits of coffee when it comes to preventing cancer. In fact, other studies have suggested that a regular coffee habit may lower the risk of many types of cancers.
“Recent studies in the past 10 years have found an association between coffee and a lower risk of colorectal cancers, head/neck cancers, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancers, among others,” Dr. Brems explains. “Obviously, more studies need to be conducted to determine a cause-and-effect relationship. At this point, it appears that coffee has many beneficial effects that we’re just starting to realize.”
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