June 6 (UPI) -- A new study has found that drinking even just a few cups of coffee or tea a day could help prevent the hardening of the liver and chronic liver disease.
Chronic liver disease, associated with unhealthy lifestyles, is the 12th leading cause of death worldwide. Liver-related mortality is linked to the development of cirrhosis, the final stage of progressive fibrosis, a scarring of the liver from chronic inflammation often associated with alcoholism.
Studies have also shown that a healthier lifestyle can help prevent or reverse liver disease.
"Over the past decades, we gradually deviated towards more unhealthy habits, including a sedentary lifestyle, decreased physical activity, and consumption of a 'Happy Diet'," Dr. Louise J. M. Alferink, of the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Erasmus MC University Medical Center, said in a press release.
"This Happy Diet, also known as the Western diet, is typically rich in unhealthy foods including processed foods lacking nutrients and artificial sugars. This has led not only to an obesity epidemic, but also to a rapid increase in the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease [NAFLD], which is due to extensive accumulation of fat in the liver and resembles alcoholic liver disease in people who do not exceed two drinks a day of alcohol. In this context, examining accessible and inexpensive lifestyle strategies that have potential health benefits, such as coffee and tea consumption, is a viable approach to finding ways to halt the rapid increase of liver disease in developed countries."
Researchers analyzed data on 2,424 participants age 45 or older living in a suburb of Rotterdam. All participants underwent extensive health testing and completed a 389-item Food Frequency Questionnaire.
Coffee consumption was analyzed and divided into three categories; none, moderate less than three cups a day and frequent with three or more cups a day. Tea consumption was further categorized by herbal, green or black, and into none or any consumption.
Researchers found that frequent coffee consumption was significantly associated with lower odds of high liver stiffness values meaning less scarring of the liver. Frequent coffee and herbal tea consumption were associated with lower liver stiffness values.
"There is quite some epidemiological, but also experimental data suggesting that coffee has health benefits on liver enzyme elevations, viral hepatitis, NAFLD, cirrhosis, and liver cancer," Dr. Sarwa Darwish Murad, hepatologist at the Erasmus MC University Medical Center. "Beyond the liver, coffee has been demonstrated to be inversely associated with overall mortality in the general population. The exact mechanism is unknown but it is thought that coffee exerts anti-oxidant effects. We were curious to find out whether coffee consumption would have a similar effect on liver stiffness measurements in individuals without chronic liver disease."
The study was published June 6 in the Journal of Hepatology.