Popular drink shown to improve liver health if at liver disease risk

Liver Disease: Expert discusses risks and symptoms

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The liver is an essential organ that performs many complex functions that are crucial for maintaining overall health. In addition to the detoxification of the blood, the liver plays a role in metabolism. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) occurs when there is a build-up of fat in the liver, which can lead to organ scarring and reduced function.

In the earliest stages, known as steatosis, the fat is considered “harmless” by the NHS.

Yet, when the liver becomes inflamed, the condition is regarded as “more serious”.

If the inflammation persists, scar tissue can develop around the liver and nearby blood vessels.

After years of inflammation, the scarred and lumpy liver shrinks in size and NAFLD can lead to liver failure and liver cancer.

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While the condition is largely symptomless in the beginning stages when scarring and inflammation occur, people might experience:

  • A dull or aching pain in the top right of the tummy (over the lower right side of the ribs)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness.

How to protect the liver

In the journal of Clinical And Experimental Hepatology, researchers at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, India, highlighted the health benefits of coffee.

“Consumption of coffee has been shown to benefit health in general, and liver health in particular,” the authors noted in 2016.

“Coffee consumption is associated with improvement in liver enzymes (ALT, AST, and GGTP), especially in individuals with risk for liver disease.”

Participants who had pre-existing liver disease seemingly benefited from coffee consumption.

Those participants who would consume more than two cups of coffee daily had a lower incidence of fibrosis and cirrhosis of the liver.

“The incidence of advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis is lower among coffee drinkers,” the researchers summarised.

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The British Liver Trust cautioned “although drinking coffee may protect you from developing liver disease”, other factors are key.

And while drinking coffee can be helpful to those “who already have some degree of liver damage”, it’s only one protective measure.

Good liver health still hinges on “reducing the amount of alcohol we drink, eating a good diet, drinking plenty of water, doing regular exercise and keeping to a healthy weight”.

A 2017 report, hosted by the Institute for Scientific Information on coffee in association with the British Liver Trust, elaborated on research in the area.

Dr La Vecchia summarised the research, concluding that regular moderate coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of liver disease.

Moderate coffee consumption is typically defined as three to five cups per day, based on the European Food Safety Authority’s review of caffeine safety.

Coffee consumption has been inversely associated with the activity of the liver enzyme gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT).

Yet, its benefits are purported to be due to its caffeine and antioxidant components.

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