Chalk up another benefit to downing your favorite morning brew: Drinking coffee may protect your liver, research from the University of Southampton in the U.K. found.
After analyzing data on 432,000 people from 5 separate studies, the researchers concluded that people who drank one cup of coffee a day were 22 percent less likely to develop cirrhosis—scarring of the liver that eventually causes it to fail—than those who didn’t drink any.
And the more coffee they consumed, the better their livers fared: People who drank two cups a day were 43 percent less likely to get the disease, while those who drank four cups a day had a 65 percent lower risk of it.
The study didn’t separate between decaf and regular coffee. But it’s likely that the caffeine does play a protective role, says study author Oliver Kennedy, M.D.
Caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors in your body, which are responsible for activating certain liver cells that lay down scar tissue. If this process is hindered, scar tissue—and eventually cirrhosis—may be less likely to occur, he says.
Still, it’s possible that there’s something in coffee itself that may be responsible for the beneficial effects, too.
For instance, one component called diterpenes—found in both regular and decaf coffee—may tamp down inflammation in the liver, reducing the risk of cirrhosis, Dr. Kennedy says.
So if you want to keep your liver safe, consider adding a cup or two of coffee to your day, as well maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption, says Dr. Kennedy. Stick to no more than two drinks a day.
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