Can Drinking Coffee Really Keep Your Liver Healthy?

If you're like most people, you probably make a beeline to the coffee pot as soon as your morning alarm starts blaring – plus maybe a few more times throughout the day. While coffee has long been known to boast many health benefits, a June 2021 study published in BMC Public Health found that drinking any type of coffee — decaf, instant, espresso, and more — could protect you from developing chronic liver disease.

Chronic liver disease (CLD) has accounted for 1.32 million deaths between 1990 and 2017. And it's on the rise. The most common causes of CLD are alcohol-related liver disease, chronic hepatitis B and C, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Compared to non-coffee drinkers, people who drank any type of coffee were 21% less likely to develop chronic or fatty liver disease and 49% less likely to die from CLD, the study revealed (via CNN). That's great news if you're currently on the way to your favorite local coffee shop.

The results of this study are significant as CLD is a public health concern, primarily because it disproportionately affects low- to medium-income countries and puts a hefty burden on worldwide healthcare systems. This study is the first of its kind to look into coffee's direct effect on CLD development. As such, further studies are necessary to investigate more deeply the hepato-protective effects of coffee. 

Additional benefits of drinking coffee

The June 2021 study is just one of the numerous studies to yield positive benefits from your delicious and tasty coffee. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, drinking coffee can decrease your chances of dying from a cardiovascular event (think: heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease), decrease the likelihood of developing Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease, and decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes, among many other things.

On the benefits of drinking coffee and liver diseases, Dr. Albert Do, hepatologist, told Healthline, "There are previous studies suggesting lower risk of cirrhosis (severe liver scarring), improvements in fatty liver disease, lower rates of hospitalization and mortality in cirrhosis, associated with coffee use." While the exact reasoning behind coffee's ability to protect the liver remains unknown, it is theorized that coffees' anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic properties may be at play, Do explained.

If you're getting ready to chug pot after pot of coffee to keep your liver in tip-top shape, though, think again. While looking into the different types of coffee people consume, researchers also analyzed how many cups of coffee yielded the most health benefits. They found the magic number to be around 4 or 5 cups a day.