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Coffee a shield against alcohol-related disease

The liver disease alcoholic cirrhosis progressively destroys healthy liver tissue and replaces it with scar tissue.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2006 18:05 IST

Drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing the liver disease alcoholic cirrhosis, according to a report in the June 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA, (Journal of the American Medical Association)journals.

Cirrhosis progressively destroys healthy liver tissue and replaces it with scar tissue.

Viruses such as hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis, but long-term, heavy alcohol use is the most common cause of the disease in developed countries.

Arthur L. Klatsky, M.D., and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, Oakland, Calif., analyzed data from 125,580 individuals (55,247 men and 70,333 women) who did not report liver disease when they had baseline examinations, between 1978 and 1985.

Participants filled out a questionnaire to provide information about how much alcohol, coffee and tea they drank per day during the past year.

Some of the individuals also had their blood tested for levels of certain liver enzymes; the enzymes are released into the bloodstream when the liver is diseased or damaged.

Tea drinking was not related to reduced risk in the study, suggesting that it is not caffeine that is responsible for the relationship between coffee and reduced cirrhosis risk.

"Previous reports are disparate with respect to whether the apparently protective coffee ingredient is caffeine; in our opinion this issue is quite unresolved," the authors write.

The findings do not suggest that physicians prescribe coffee to prevent alcoholic cirrhosis, the authors continue.

"Even if coffee is protective, the primary approach to reduction of alcoholic cirrhosis is avoidance or cessation of heavy alcohol drinking," they conclude. "Assuming causality, the data do suggest that coffee intake may partly explain the variability of cirrhosis risk in alcohol consumers.

Basic research about hepatic coffee-ethanol interactions is warranted, but we should keep in mind that coffee might represent only one of a number of potential cirrhosis risk modulators."