Coffee may protect liver from damage of alcohol

A US study of men and women over 20 years found a 22% reduced risk of developing alcoholic cirrhosis for each cup of coffee drank per day. Experts warned that even if coffee was protective, reducing alcohol intake was the only way to avoid liver damage, CBS reports. 

Tea was not associated with a reduced risk, indicating caffeine may not be the link.

The researchers from California looked at health records of patients who had undergone voluntary examinations between 1978 and 1985.

By 2001, 330 people were diagnosed with liver cirrhosis, 199 of whom had cirrhosis due to drinking.

Drinking less than one cup of coffee a day was found to reduce the risk of alcoholic cirrhosis by 30%; one to three cups by 40%; and four or more cups by 80%.

There was also a small but non-significant reduction in other forms of cirrhosis - not associated with alcohol - in coffee drinkers.

To look at liver damage the team measured certain enzymes in the blood, according to the BBC News.

As expected, levels of the enzymes were significantly higher in heavy drinkers, however those who drank both alcohol and coffee had lower levels than those who drank alcohol but not coffee, with the strongest relationship in the heaviest drinkers.

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