A row of people sitting on a subway all look happy with coffee cups in their hands and healthy livers shining through their bodies indicated by a small heart within each liver.

Is Coffee Good for Your Liver?

Last updated: May 2020

There is good news for coffee lovers... Coffee can be good for your health! Once thought to be harmful, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, coffee is no longer considered a potential contributing cause for cancer. In fact, coffee is now considered to have health enhancing properties, especially for your liver.1 Coffee contains hundreds of chemicals including caffeine, kahweol, and cafestol.2,3 Some of these chemicals have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which could be beneficial.3

Coffee is part of daily routines around the world. Known by a multitude of names including joe, java, or any of 20 slang names, millions of people can’t go a day without the beloved beverage. It is a favorite morning wake-up and afternoon pick-me-up.4 Fortunately, researchers also believe that coffee is good for health, and reduces the risk for developing liver diseases.

Coffee and liver cancer

Chronic liver disease, including liver cancer, is common worldwide.5 It is the 3rd highest cause of male cancer deaths and the 6th highest cause of female cancer deaths. It has been associated with alcohol use, calorie and fat intake, and unhealthy diet and exercise.6

A meta-analysis literature review analyzed numerous studies conducted over recent years covering thousands of cases, breaking them down by study design, study region, gender, and history of liver cancer. Although studies reported inconsistent results, the overwhelming evidence is that there are beneficial effects from the caffeine consumption associated with drinking coffee.2,5

Research shows that drinking 2 or more cups of coffee daily can decrease the chance of developing liver cancer and cirrhosis.1,6 Drinking two cups of coffee is associated with a 43% decrease in the risk of developing liver cancer. 4 cups of coffee per day can lower the risk for cirrhosis by 65%.4

Coffee and hepatitis C

Coffee beverages are also linked to a lower risk of developing advanced hepatic fibrosis with chronic hepatitis C. According to one study, an average daily intake of 100 mg of caffeine (about 1 cup of coffee) was associated with an approximately one-third reduction of advanced fibrosis. The protective factors in caffeine can also limit oxidative DNA damage, modify the cell death (apoptotic) response, and aid cell function at each stage.3

Important considerations

Longtime coffee drinking has been associated with a lower risk of death and disease, including cancer.7 However, this doesn’t mean anyone should drink more coffee just for medicinal reasons; coffee and caffeine have side effects that can lead to headaches, fatigue, can give you the jitters, and cause problems with concentration. More importantly, coffee full of cream and sugar, caramel, or other sugar infused syrups can lead to other health complications.4

The effects of coffee on your body

As the body metabolizes caffeine, it produces chemicals that can slow the growth of scar tissue. This may help counteract damage caused by fibrosis, liver cancer, cirrhosis, and hepatitis C. Researchers have not yet proven outcomes, but have projected that moderate amounts of unsweetened coffee could be added to the treatment regimen for hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common kind of primary liver cancer.4 The natural acids in coffee may also help fight the virus that causes hepatitis B. Decaffeinated coffee may also offer this benefit.

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