A minority of persons at risk develop liver cirrhosis, but knowledge of risk modulators is sparse. Several reports suggest that coffee drinking is associated with lower cirrhosis risk.
Arthur L. Klatsky, M.D., and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, Oakland, Calif., analyzed data from 125,580 individuals (55,247 men and 70,333 women) without liver disease when they had baseline examinations, between 1978 and 1985. Participants filled out a questionnaire to provide information about how much alcohol, coffee and tea they drank per day during the past year. Some of the individuals also had their blood tested for levels of certain liver enzymes; the enzymes are released into the bloodstream when the liver is diseased or damaged.
By the end of 2001, 330 participants had been diagnosed with cirrhosis, including 199 with alcoholic cirrhosis. For each cup of coffee they drank per day, participants were 22% less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis. Drinking coffee was also associated with a slight reduction in risk for other types of cirrhosis. Among those who had their blood drawn, liver enzyme levels were higher among individuals who drank more alcohol, indicating liver disease or damage; however, those who drank both alcohol and coffee had lower levels than those who drank alcohol but did not drink coffee, with the strongest link among the heaviest drinkers. Tea drinking was not related to reduced risk in the study, suggesting that it is not caffeine that is responsible for the relationship between coffee and reduced cirrhosis risk
The findings do not suggest that physicians prescribe coffee to prevent alcoholic cirrhosis, the authors stress. Rather, basic research about hepatic coffee-ethanol interactions is warranted. Coffee might represent only one of a number of potential cirrhosis risk modulators.
Source: Coffee, Cirrhosis, and Transaminase Enzymes - Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:1190-1195. Arthur L. Klatsky, MD; Cynthia Morton, MD; Natalia Udaltsova, PhD; Gary D. Friedman, MD