There is good evidence that coffee has a beneficial effect in people at risk for liver fibrosis and there are plausible biological mechanisms to explain why, according to an editorial in the January 27 advance online edition of Hepatology. However, the amount needed to see such an effect may be too high for many people to tolerate, they cautioned.
A growing body of research suggests that drinking coffee — and perhaps consuming caffeine more generally — is associated with reduced progression or even improvement in liver fibrosis among people with chronic liver problems including hepatitis C and fatty liver disease.
“The published epidemiological data demonstrating an inverse relationship between coffee (and potentially other caffeinated beverage) consumption and liver fibrosis and its downstream complications are weighty and rapidly accumulating,” wrote Jonathan Dranoff from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and colleagues.
One strong study, for example, found that people in the highest 20% of coffee consumers had less than one-third the risk of ALT elevation — indicating liver inflammation, which over time promotes fibrosis — compared with the bottom 20%. Another study showed that the odds of liver cirrhosis decreased in a step-wise manner with increasing daily coffee consumption.