And new research published this week points to another one, suggesting that people who drink coffee daily have a lower risk of developing and dying from liver disease.
The study, published in the journal BMC Public Health, analyzed data from more than 495,000 people in the U.K. over a median of 10 years. They tracked which people developed chronic liver disease and related liver conditions, which are growing concerns worldwide.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, people who drink coffee had a 21% reduced risk of chronic liver disease and a 20% reduced risk of chronic or fatty liver disease. They were also much less likely to die from chronic liver disease if they did contract it.
“Coffee is widely accessible and the benefits we see from our study may mean it could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease,” the study’s authors noted in a press release.
Liver disease is a major health issue around the world ― particularly in low-income countries ― that has grown over the past three decades. Estimates suggest that 1 in 10 Americans has some form of liver disease; there are more than 100 different types of the condition. Potential causes of liver disease include viruses, genetics, reactions to medication, excessive alcohol use or combinations thereof.
The liver-related preventive benefits of coffee in the new study appeared to be highest in people who drank ground coffee, rather than instant. Ground coffee has higher levels of kahweol and cafestol, two chemical compounds known to have anti-inflammatory properties. But overall, experts are still trying to understand exactly why coffee has bodily benefits. Research often focuses on the role of plant compounds known as polyphenols, which coffee beans are rich in.
The current study does come with caveats. The researchers note that participants were predominantly white and from higher socioeconomic backgrounds, so it’s important to exercise caution when extrapolating these findings for a broader audience.
And on the whole, experts caution against taking studies like this one — or any of the other research on the health benefits of coffee — to mean that you should become a coffee drinker if you aren’t one already. There are potential downsides as well as upsides to coffee consumption, including sleep disruption and heartburn.
To help prevent liver disease, it’s also important to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet and limit your alcohol consumption. Carefully following instructions on medications, and only taking them when you need them, is vital as well.
Overall, given that millions of people already drink coffee every day — and that just a few years ago, many people worried it was a potential carcinogen — the new research is good news. If you’re looking to maximize the potential health benefits of coffee, try not to drink more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day (so four cups of coffee, max), and be mindful with fillers (like sugar and syrup).
Then go ahead and pour yourself another cup of joe.