Overview

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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, cirrhosis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)1-20. Moderate coffee consumption is typically defined as 3-5 cups per day, based on the European Food Safety Authority’s review of caffeine safety21.

In 2016, The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published an assessment of coffee, maté, and very hot beverages1. Having reviewed publicly available scientific evidence, the IARC Working Group 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 cancer1.

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 in a dose-dependent manner)2-5.

Further information on IARC guidance can be found in our factsheet on cancer, available here

Research suggests that coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of cirrhosis6-9, fibrosis8,10,11, chronic liver disease6,10,11, and of developing NAFLD6,12-20. Research in patients with advanced hepatitis C-related liver disease also suggests that regular, moderate coffee consumption is associated with lower rates of disease progression22-24.

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 cancer9,24-26. Other suggested mechanisms include the anti-carcinogenic effects of cafestol and kahweol27 and the possible effects of chlorogenic acids in reducing oxidative stress28-30.

The content in this Topic Overview was last edited in March 2020. Papers in the Latest Research section and further resources are added regularly.

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