Healthy Coffee and its Role in Protecting Against Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

The benefits of coffee on the liver were first recognized in people suffering from liver cirrhosis, which is a disease that mostly develops as a result of alcoholic liver damage. Studies by Klatsky et al. as well as others recognized a correlation between coffee intake and decrease in elevated liver enzymes, and overall hospitalizations and mortality of people with liver cirrhosis. It appeared that, for alcoholic liver disease, coffee could make a major difference in how fast the disease progressed and could even work to reduce damage.

Most people are aware that alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for liver disease, but not everyone is aware that there are other risk factors too. It is possible to develop something called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) without ever touching a drop of liquor, wine, or beer. NAFLD begins to affect the body in a similar way to alcoholic liver disease, with fat deposits distributed throughout the liver causing scarring, inflammation, and stiffness. Since the liver acts as a filter for everything that one consumes, this can decrease its functional capacity and cause a chain reaction throughout the body. It can also lead to cancer. While alcoholic liver disease can have more initial symptoms, NAFLD usually doesn’t produce as much swelling initially and can therefore take longer for a patient to discover.

Fortunately, coffee’s protective effects on the liver function similarly whether it’s against non-alcoholic or alcoholic liver disease. The same fatty deposits, fibrous scar tissue, and steatosis (inflammation of the liver) appear whether the cause is heavy alcohol use or not. Saab et al. defined some component parts of coffee that have liver-protecting effects. Caffeine has inhibitory functions that work as antifibrotic, anticancer, and anti-inflammatories. They also noted that other chemicals in coffee act as protectants including substances called cafestol and kehweol, which have anticancer effects including helping to generate detoxifying enzymes in the liver. Possibly the most useful substances in the fight against liver disease are polyphenols such as chlorogenic acids (CGAs), which demonstrated a decrease in immune and inflammatory markers in Saab’s study.

Liver disease is a silent killer as often there are no symptoms until it’s too late. Coffee is something that is easily accessible to everyone and regularly drinking it — filtered, instant, or espresso — may make a difference in preventing and, in some cases, slowing down the progression of liver disease — it is an easy lifestyle choice to make.”

Judi Rhys, chief executive of the British Liver Trust

As is often the case, caffeine’s health effects are outshone by polyphenols when it comes to coffee’s effects on the liver. Shen et al.’s 2016 meta-analyses in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology noted that even though caffeine had the functional potential to fight liver disease, actual ground coffee was the only thing that really made a measurable difference. When comparing groups that took in caffeine through soda and tea (aka “total caffeine) to groups that specifically drank coffee (“regular coffee caffeine”), the “regular coffee caffeine” group showed an inverse correlation with NAFLD fibrosis while the “total caffeine” group did not. That would indicate that despite caffeine’s theoretical effects, coffee’s antioxidant effects were the only visibly effective ones.

In 2010, Catalano et al. released a study that aimed to specifically evaluate coffee’s effects on NAFLD using ultrasound bright liver score (BLS) as measurement. It found that there was an inverse correlation between coffee drinking and severe BLS scores. Additionally, a 2012 study of morbidly obese European women with NAFLD found that regular ground coffee intake, though not espresso or other caffeinated beverages, was consistent with lower levels of liver fibrosis.

Catalano’s study also drew attention to the association of NAFLD and obesity and metabolic syndrome, observing more severe BLS in people showing multiple symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease can be caused by multiple factors, which often occur simultaneously. There are some experts who say there might be a genetic component to the development of NAFLD, but more studies need to be conducted on this. One of the greatest risk factors for the disease, however, is having symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which is a condition that is a precursor to many other life-threatening diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Symptoms include a large waist size, abnormal cholesterol levels in your blood (specifically high triglycerides and low HDL), high blood-glucose, and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the fat, muscle, and liver cells don’t respond properly to the hormone insulin, which is released in order to process glucose in the body. Usually, symptoms of metabolic syndrome occur in people with obesity, another area where coffee intake can help.

Coffee can also help protect against NAFLD at a more primary level of prevention before the liver even develops fat deposits or fibrosis. More good news for everyone is that coffee has actually been shown to help prevent metabolic syndrome and obesity. A 2007 epidemiological study by Hino et al. in Japan was one of the first to note an inverse relationship between drinking coffee and the development of metabolic syndrome. Another study found that coffee can help people lose weight by boosting metabolic rates between 3–11%.

To enjoy the protective benefits of coffee, whether it be protection from metabolic syndrome or liver damage, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the optimum health benefits out of your coffee. Avoiding sugary, milky espresso drinks certainly helps with efforts not to take in too many calories. When you also drink pure brewed coffee that is free from any contaminants like pesticides and mycotoxins, you are really maximizing the healthful effects of the polyphenols the coffee contains.

The easiest, best thing you can do for your liver health at both the primary prevention and damage control levels, is to choose Purity Coffee, the only coffee that is selected and roasted purely with health in mind.

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