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Research suggests an inverse association between moderate coffee consumption and the risk of developing a range of liver diseases including cancer, fibrosis and cirrhosis. Moderate coffee consumption is typically defined as 3-5 cups per day, based on the European Food Safety Authority’s review of caffeine safety1.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found no clear association between coffee intake and cancer at any body site and suggested that coffee drinking may actually help reduce the risk of certain cancers, including liver cancer2.  Meta-analyses have suggested that coffee consumption versus no coffee consumption is associated with up to a 40% risk reduction of liver cancer (although this is a dose-dependent relationship)3-6.

Research suggests that coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of cirrhosis7,8, fibrosis9-11, chronic liver disease7-10, 12, and of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease7,13-20. Research in patients with advanced hepatitis C-related liver disease also suggests that regular, moderate coffee consumption is associated with lower rates of disease progression20-23.

Several possible mechanisms are under investigation to help understand whether, and to what extent, caffeine is associated with the inverse association between coffee consumption and these liver diseases: for example, the main primary caffeine metabolite, paraxanthine, appears to suppress the synthesis of CTGF (connective tissue growth factor) via a cascade of control cycles, which subsequently slows down the progression of liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver cancer10,24-26.  Other suggested mechanisms include the anti-carcinogenic effects of cafestol and kahweol27, and possible antiviral effects of chlorogenic acids and caffeic acid15.

The content in this Topic Overview was last edited in November 2017. Papers in the Latest Research section and further resources are added regularly.

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