More Good News for Coffee Drinkers


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Coffee often pops up in the news these days, with enthusiasts singing its praise as an antioxidant- rich beverage and with naysayers being concerned about its caffeine-causing side effects such as nervousness and Insomnia. Now weighing in on the plus side is a new study suggesting that coffee may substantially reduce the risk of deadly Alcoholic Cirrhosis in drinkers. To learn more, I consulted lead researcher Arthur L. Klatsky, MD, at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland, California.

ABOUT THE STUDY

Dr. Klatsky and his colleagues analyzed health data on more than 125,000 people for an average of 14 years. At the start of the study period, no participants reported evidence of Liver Disease. By the end of 2001, 330 developed Cirrhosis, including 199 cases of Alcoholic Cirrhosis. In this life-threatening disease, Scar tissue gradually replaces normal tissue, preventing the liver from functioning properly.

According to Dr. Klatsky, researchers discovered that…

  • For each cup of coffee consumed daily, there was an approximately 20% drop in risk for developing Alcoholic Cirrhosis. Four or more cups daily resulted in roughly an 80% lower risk.

  • Blood tests indicated elevated liver enzymes — a sign of liver damage — in those who drank more alcohol. However, people who drank both alcohol and coffee had lower levels of enzymes than those who drank alcohol but did not drink coffee.

  • Tea did not appear to reduce risk, leading researchers to speculate that it is not caffeine but other constituents in coffee that provide a protective effect.

As this was an observational study based on medical records and self-reporting, and not a randomized, controlled clinical trial, researchers could only note an association (rather than a causality) between coffee consumption and reduced risk of Alcoholic Cirrhosis. Other factors may also be at work, such as genetics, diet and smoking.

A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

Of course, the primary way to prevent Alcoholic Cirrhosis is to refrain from drinking large amounts of alcohol, and in view of the multiple problems heavy alcohol drinking can cause, no one is recommending coffee to offset alcohol abuse. Also, as I’ve written here before, coffee can be a double-edged sword.

On the plus side, studies have suggested that it can lower the risk of liver problems (Daily Health News, July 21, 2005), as well as type 2 Diabetes, gallstones and Parkinson’s disease. However, too much coffee (which pregnant women and children should not drink at all) can cause jitteriness, Sleeplessness and potential heart problems.

That said, coffee lovers can take comfort in knowing that their morning indulgence may not only be doing less damage than previously assumed, in many ways a cup of joe may even have a positive impact on health.

More Good News for Coffee Drinkers

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