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It’s been the month of coffee for me. Maybe it’s because of the festive Tim Hortons cups that look like little knit sweaters, or maybe it’s because of the projects and reviews I’ve been working on while thoughts of Christmas dance through my head. Or maybe it’s grad school, and I’ve finally made the transition to the “adult” life (haha, just kidding!) Whatever it is, let’s not argue this one fact: coffee sure is delicious!

Besides being the trusty caffeine-loaded best friend to hundreds of sleepy (2-a.m.-study-session-learning-the-entire-semester’s-content-in-a-few -hours) type-of students and citizens of earth alike, new research suggests that coffee may  actually benefit more than just your tired mental state.

First things first, take a moment to thank your liver. I’m serious. This power-house of an organ does a heck of a lot of work each and every day, to keep us feeling and looking good. The liver not only filters our blood, it also eliminates toxic substances and metabolizes caffeine. Caffeine, which slows the growth of connective tissue in the liver, thereby reducing scar-formation, is the most widely known compound in coffee; however, this popular beverage is composed of thousands of different lesser known biologically active chemicals (Godos et al., 2014). Antioxidants, which are popular in current nutrition trends due to their super-power cancer-fighting capabilities, are contained in surprising amounts in this little miracle drink. Cafestol and Kahweol, two antioxidants found in coffee, are making headlines – research suggests that these two hepato-protective compounds may be accountable for some of the beneficial effects of coffee consumption seen in patients with liver disease.

A study published in 2012 examined individuals with varying stages of liver disease, and found that coffee consumption slowed the progression of the scarring of liver tissue (Molloy et al., 2012). This trend has been evolving ever since the earliest association was found between coffee and liver health in the early 1990s. (Klatsky et al., 1992). More and more research confirms these findings – coffee has protective effects on the liver, and it decreases morbidity and mortality rates in liver-ill patients (Molloy et al., 2012).

So, who gives a hoot? Why should you, a perfectly healthy individual, care about the liver-health benefits of coffee?

Because liver disease is on the rise, that’s why! Fun fact – the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is increasing world-wide, and it’s assumed to be associated with the rise of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome (Williams et al., 2012). To put that into perspective, 1 out of every 10 Canadians is currently living with liver disease, and it is speculated that these numbers will continue to rise – yikes! (Canadian Liver Foundation, 2013).

You must be thinking at this point, “Sweet deal! That means I should guzzle down even more coffee because it’s so good for me, right?!” – well, not really. According to Health Canada, it’s crucial not to exceed the 400 mg of caffeine intake per day, which equates to about 3 cups of coffee. Depending on brewing and roasting techniques, an excessive intake of coffee may even result in certain compounds raising your cholesterol (Post et al., 1997). So, once again, moderation is key.

As researchers continue to explore this unique topic, the future is looking good for this tasty little drink. But for now, let’s focus on preventing the root causes of liver disease by staying active, eating right, and nourishing our bodies with liver-healthy foods, while still enjoying moderate consumptions of coffee each day.

Cheers to that!

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What’s your favourite kind of coffee? I love a good Latte Macchiato! Deeeeelicious!!

References

  • Klatsky, Arthur L., and Mary Anne Armstrong. “Alcohol, Smoking, Coffee, and Cirrhosis.” American Journal of Epidemology10 (1992): 1248-257. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/136/10/1248.short.
  • Dietrich, P., & Hellerbrand, C. (2014). Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology28(4), 637-653.
  • Liver Disease in Canada: A Crisis in the Making. (2013, March 1). Retrieved November 12, 2014, from http://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CCkQFjAC&url=http://www.liver.ca/files/PDF/Liver_Disease_Report_2013/CLF_LiverDiseaseInCanada_Synopsis_E_WEB.pdf&ei=0sNiVIC4A7DfsATzzIDwDg&usg=AFQjCNF1A4dT7hWBj0m7MHtsIkf5AJNlHQ&bvm=bv.79189006,d.aWw
  • Molloy, Jeffrey W., Christopher J. Calcagno, Christopher D. Williams, Frances J. Jones, Dawn M. Torres, and Stephen A. Harrison. “Association of Coffee and Caffeine Consumption with Fatty Liver Disease, Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, and Degree of Hepatic Fibrosis.” Hepatology2 (20122): 429-36. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.
  • “NAFLD (Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease).” American Liver Foundation. 4 Oct. 2004. Web. 4 Nov. 2014.
  • Godos, J., Pluchinotta, F. R., Marventano, S., Buscemi, S., Li Volti, G., Galvano, F., & Grosso, G. (2014). Coffee components and cardiovascular risk: beneficial and detrimental effects. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 65(8), 925-936.
  • Post, S. M., de Wit, E. C., & Princen, H. M. (1997). Cafestol, the cholesterol-raising factor in boiled coffee, suppresses bile acid synthesis by downregulation of cholesterol 7α-hydroxylase and sterol 27-hydroxylase in rat hepatocytes. Arteriosclerosis, thrombosis, and vascular biology, 17(11), 3064-3070.
  • Lee, K. J., Choi, J. H., & Jeong, H. G. (2007). Hepatoprotective and antioxidant effects of the coffee diterpenes kahweol and cafestol on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver damage in mice. Food and chemical toxicology, 45(11), 2118-2125.

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