When trying to establish a healthy diet and active lifestyle you may wonder whether that delicious cup of freshly brewed coffee is helping or hindering you. The health benefits of coffee are a widely debated topic. One subject that keeps popping up is the issue of coffee and liver health. What effect does coffee have on your liver?
Coffee is shown, not only to reduce your chances of developing a liver condition but it also slows the progression of diseases which are already present. It doesn’t matter which roast or brew style you prefer, as long as coffee is involved, you experience the benefits all the same.
What is the purpose of the liver?
So it would seem coffee is good for your liver but what does this mean? What should the liver be doing when it’s working properly?
Well the liver is a large organ that sits just under your ribcage. It has lots of blood vessels passing through it that carry all the good and bad things you digest from your food. The liver acts as a filtration system to remove toxins from the blood and sends all the nutrients and other good stuff on its way to help your body work the way it’s meant to. It also works to metabolize any drugs taken and removes them from your system.
Without your liver working properly, all the waste products your body produces would build up in your system and eventually poison you. The liver has a really important job to do so it’s worthwhile doing all we can to keep it healthy.
How is coffee good for the liver?
In recent years it has become apparent that coffee drinkers show lower levels of cirrhosis (like scarring of the tissue) in chronic (longer term) liver disease. The effect seems to be related to the caffeine in coffee.
When caffeine is broken down in the body it produces a chemical call paraxanthine. This inhibits inflammatory reactions so reduces the amount of damage seen in liver disease.
Two other components of coffee called kahweol and cafestol have been linked to reduced chances of liver cancer.
As well as this, polyphenols found in coffee may act in the liver to reduce oxidative stress.
So that’s good news all round.
How much coffee will help the liver?
So there seems to be a lot of potential benefits for your liver when you sit down for a cup of coffee. But how much is needed to provide this beneficial effect?
Well the answer is great if you are a coffee fan. It has been shown that the more coffee you drink, the more benefit your liver gains. 2 cups of coffee lowers liver scarring by 44% but 4 cups a day puts that figure up to 65%.
That’s great news for us coffee fans. It is important to note however, that being said, although 4-5 cups a day seems to show health benefits if you push that number of cups to 6 or above on a regular basis then this takes us past the optimal amount and we start to see issues.
What brew of coffee is best?
Ok so we’ve established coffee is good for your liver, it has numerous benefits listed above. Around 4 cups a day is optimal but what type of coffee is best to consume? Is espresso better than drip coffee? Does instant coffee have the same benefits?
Well it would seem that the preparation doesn’t matter when it comes to liver health. These benefits have been found to be associated with espresso, filtered and instant coffee so pick your favorite and enjoy!
Does milk and sugar matter?
So it all seems too good to be true. Something as delicious and moreish as a fresh cup of coffee is also good for your health!
Well here’s the downside. If you like a spoon or two of sugar in your coffee this can act to reduce the beneficial effects seen in the caffeine.
Sugar consumption (especially sugary drinks) is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes which is a major risk factor for liver disease. So whilst a cup of black coffee can be considered a healthy choice, add a bit of sugar and you undo all that goodness.
So the bottom line is, although a cup of black coffee can help keep your liver healthy, adding sugar and milk or creamer can negate these effects.
Are There Any Other Health Benefits To Coffee?
The short answer is yes! Coffee has been shown to have benefits in many areas that can improve overall health. Read on to find out how.
Caffeine in coffee has a positive impact on brain function. It stops the chemical adenosine that causes the tired feeling by inhibiting brain activity. When this is out the way the brain can function at full capacity and this improves mood, learning, energy levels, problem solving and even creativity.
Caffeine works to give your metabolism a boost so this causes the body to call for more energy to be made available. This in turn leads to the mobilization of fat stores so you can use the fuel stored there.
It is important to note that this effect is balanced out if you add sugar or high calorie milk products to the cup. Plain black coffee is best to enhance these effects. Also note, consuming extra food with coffee will also prevent you from benefitting from any weight loss.
As noted above, caffeine gives you more energy. This works by activating your sympathetic nervous system (also known as fight or flight response) by releasing adrenaline into your blood. This is beneficial to the whole body and can gear you up for a workout, a long run, or even just a busy day on your feet.
Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
That being said, any sugar added to the drink can increase your risk of developing the disease. The best option for the health conscious amongst us is to have your coffee black.
Lower risk of Alzheimers and Parkinsons
Improved mental ability is a definite benefit to reaching for that cup of joe but it may prove to be more than just a short term benefit. Scientists, whilst observing the likelihood of certain diseases amongst individuals within a population, have found that coffee drinkers seem to be at lower risk of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
This would suggest that there’s no reason to cut out that cup of coffee whilst pursuing a healthier lifestyle.
Less Chance Of Depression
Alongside the reduced chances of Alzheimer’s, scientists have found a link between lower levels of depression and coffee drinkers. Although the mechanism for this remains unclear, it would seem that coffee does have an impact on improving the quality of life both now and in the future.
Antioxidants are powerful chemicals that rid the body of harmful unstable molecules called free radicals. These are produced as a by-product of metabolic processes in the body and if they are not removed they cause cell damage.
Over time this can lead to many disease processes and even cancer. Antioxidants are found in lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and also coffee!!! This is yet another great reason to enjoy that morning cup of java.
At this stage, with all the benefits listed above, it comes as no surprise that coffee consumption has a positive effect on lifespan. Several studies have found a correlation between these factors and this adds more information to prove coffee could be considered a health drink.
As Well As Drinking Coffee, How Do I Avoid Liver Issues In The Future?
If you are concerned about your liver health long term or know liver disease runs in the family then there are things you can do to help support a happy and healthy liver long term.
Avoiding alcohol and fatty food is key. Look out for heavily processed foods and anything high in sugar as these can add to liver issues. Recreational drug use is also very detrimental to liver function. Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and maintaining a healthy weight and active lifestyle is essential. If you are suffering from liver issues it’s important to consult your doctor on what diet would be best for you.