Coffee and the digestive system

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Coffee and Gastrointestinal Function
Many gastrointestinal (GI) tract problems are potentially triggered by foods and drinks, however there is no evidence to suggest that drinking coffee is directly linked to an increased risk of GI problems.

  • Studies have shown there is no relationship between coffee consumption and dyspepsia (stomach complaints)73,74,75.
  • Furthermore, research suggests that there is no association between coffee consumption and the four major acid-related upper GI disorders; gastric ulcers, duodenal ulcers, reflux oesophagitis and non-erosive reflux disease76.
  • A recent meta-analysis found no evidence that coffee affects gastro-oesophageal reflux or worsens its symptoms77.

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There has been very little published research on coffee and gallbladder disease since 2002, however, combined data suggests that coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of developing gallbladder disease.

  • Three large studies suggest that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of symptomatic gallstones compared to non-coffee drinkers and that the risk continues to fall as coffee consumption increases78,79,80.
  • Caffeine in coffee appears to trigger the contraction of the gallbladder, which may help to prevent small crystals becoming large gallstones in the early stages of the disease, but if large gallstones are present, gallbladder contraction may cause more pain81.
  • Other studies have failed to find an association between coffee consumption and gallstones and further research is required to understand the exact nature of the relationship82.

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Coffee and Liver
The epidemiological evidence suggests that moderate coffee consumption may reduce the risk of developing a range of liver diseases, such as liver fibrosis, cirrhosis, fatty liver disease and Hepatitis-C.

  • Reviews suggest drinking coffee may help to reduce the risk of developing liver cancer and the risk continues to fall as coffee consumption increases67,68. The 2016 IARC review of evidence also concluded that coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing liver cancer52.
  • Moderate coffee consumption may also be related to a slower progression of liver disease. Patients with a higher coffee consumption have been found to display a milder course of fibrosis, especially in alcoholic liver disease83.
  • The association between moderate coffee consumption and a slower rate of fibrosis has also been seen in patients with hepatic fibrosis84, cirrhosis85, non-alcoholic liver disease86-89 and Hepatitis C90,91.

The mechanisms behind these observations are still under investigation, but it has been suggested that caffeine may play a role.

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