Chronic liver disease is a particular concern for people with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes. While it isn’t clear exactly what accounts for the link between the two conditions, people with type 2 are at increased risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition in which abnormally large amounts of fat build up in the organ. While NAFLD doesn’t usually cause symptoms by itself, it increases the risk for inflammation and structural changes in the liver that may reduce liver function over time, and increases the risk for liver cancer. What’s more, undiagnosed liver disease appears to be common in people with type 2 diabetes, according to research presented in June 2020 at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions.
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For the latest study, the researchers compared participants in the UK Biobank — a large British general health study — based on their coffee consumption and risk for liver disease. A total of 494,585 participants were included in the analysis — 384,818 coffee drinkers and 109,767 non-coffee drinkers. The researchers compared several health outcomes over time in these two groups based on their medical records, including cases of chronic liver disease, a form of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), and death from chronic liver disease.
Liver conditions less common in coffee drinkers
During a follow-up period that lasted an average of 10.7 years, there were 3,600 confirmed cases chronic liver disease and 5,439 cases of chronic liver disease or steatosis, which refers to changes that occur in the development of fatty liver disease. There were 184 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma, and 301 deaths from chronic liver disease. Compared with non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers were 21% less likely to develop confirmed chronic liver disease, 20% less likely to develop chronic liver disease or steatosis, 20% less likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma, and a stunning 49% less likely to die from chronic liver disease. What’s more, there were no major differences in these risk reductions based on whether participants drank regular ground, instant, or decaffeinated coffee.
The researchers noted that coffee is a widely available, and broadly popular, intervention that could help slow or reverse the rising incidence of chronic liver disease around the world. Since it appears to offer protection against chronic liver disease independent of its form or caffeine content, coffee may be adopted even by people who are sensitive to caffeine or don’t have the tools or time to brew coffee the traditional way. More research is needed to study what components of coffee may be responsible for the reduced risk for chronic liver disease, and whether these components can be refined to offer even greater protection against liver problems.
Want to learn more about coffee and diabetes? Read “Is Coffee Good for Diabetes?”
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