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Health Team

Doctor: Study of coffee's benefits to liver has limitations

Posted April 12

A recent study suggests that drinking two cups of coffee a day might help reduce the risk of cirrhosis of the liver, but some doctors say the effects might be overstated.

Cirrhosis is a condition in which the liver begins to deteriorate and is unable to function normally, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The condition causes more than a million deaths a year in the country.

The study, though, comes with a warning.

Dr. Jamile Wakim-Fleming of Cleveland clinic did not take part in the study that looked at the potential benefits coffee may have on liver health. But she says it's important to remember the drink is not powerful enough to counteract lifestyle choices that damage the liver.

"To go ahead and say that the coffee is going to reverse all the liver damage and prevent you from having transplant or death because you're drinking more coffee right now, or (to say) 'Go ahead and do whatever you want to do – do the drugs and drink the alcohol because coffee is going to fix it,' is the wrong message," Wakim-Fleming said.

Cirrhosis of the liver is often caused from excessive consumption of alcohol. It can also be caused by drugs and viral infections such as Hepatitis B and C, all of which can cause chronic liver inflammation.

Researchers analyzed earlier studies to see how much adding two or more cups of coffee per day might impact a person's odds of developing liver disease.

They found an association between increases in coffee intake with a significant reduction in the risk of cirrhosis.

Wakim-Fleming says the study is a good starting point, but it does have limitations.

"What we put in the coffee, we may change the whole outlook to it because if you dump the sugars and you dump the milk then you're probably destroying the benefits of it," Wakim-Fleming said.

She also warns: Don't add too much sugar and cream because they can increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular problems.

Other studies on the health benefits of coffee suggest it also offers some protection against Type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

Research has also found coffee can boost the metabolic rate by 3 to 11 percent, which means it's helping to burn fat, that is if it's not combined with cream and sugar.

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