COMMENTARY

Can Coffee Treat Liver Disease?

Rowen K. Zetterman, MD

Disclosures

April 14, 2014

In This Article

Summary: 2 Cups Daily?

Daily consumption of coffee appears to have an effect on developing fibrosis in some liver diseases, especially alcoholic liver disease and NAFLD. In addition to improving liver tests, such as GGT and ALT, coffee appears to inhibit the development of fibrosis in chronic hepatic inflammatory disorders. Whereas reduction of fibrosis and a potential effect on the outcome of patients with chronic HCV infection has been demonstrated, a similar benefit for the HBV-infected patient is not as clear. Additional studies of the effect of coffee on cirrhosis of HBV infection are needed.

Furthermore, coffee appears to reduce the risk for HCC in patients who are at risk for the disease. Once again, the evidence for any effect of coffee on HBV-related liver cancer needs additional study.

Whether the effect of coffee on liver disease is related to caffeine or some other agent in coffee is not clear. However, many studies have failed to show a significant effect of other caffeine-containing drinks, such as green or black tea, on reducing fibrosis or inhibiting the development of HCC.

Although we have treatments for many forms of chronic liver disease, alcoholics who continue to consume ethanol-containing beverages and patients with NAFLD who are unable to control their associated causal factors might benefit from drinking 2 or more cups of regular coffee daily. Whether this should be a boiled or filtered coffee preparation is probably up to the wishes of the patient. However, this recommendation for coffee is obviously an unapproved indication, and reaching a stronger conclusion will require many more studies. A careful conversation with patients at risk is needed before giving this advice.

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