Coffee: Liver Protection and Much, Much More

I’ve long espoused the health benefits of coffee. This surprises some folks who have heard the negative rumors about America’s favorite morning beverage. If coffee were harmful, then every morning emergency rooms around the world would be choked with people suffering the ill effects of our favorite breakfast brew. But this simply isn’t the case.

Hundreds of studies have proven that coffee is actually a health food. It can help ward off Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. It boosts mood, concentration, and alertness. It improves exercise endurance, curbs appetite, and can alleviate headaches. Coffee may even stave off some of the most common causes of death. A large study from last year showed that people who consumed up to six cups of regular or decaf coffee had a reduced risk of dying from cancer and heart disease.

A study published in the November 2009 issue of Hepatology, highlights yet another of coffee’s health benefits: it can help protect your liver, especially if you have hepatitis C.

Researchers examined 766 patients with hepatitis-C-related liver damage and found that those who drank three or more cups of coffee cut their risk of liver damage progression in half over a four-year period. Other studies have supported coffee’s protective benefits showing that even people who drink alcohol have an 80 percent lower risk of developing cirrhosis when they regularly consume two cups of Joe per day.

A few caveats: Feel free to drink up, but don’t go overboard. Coffee does have a handful of downsides that can crop up with excessive use. It can exacerbate anxiety and give you the jitters. And, when prepared without a paper filter, coffee may raise cholesterol levels. If you have osteoporosis or are pregnant you can enjoy an occasional cup of coffee, but try to limit your intake as high doses of caffeine are contraindicated in these two groups.

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