Increased Coffee Consumption May Slow Damage from Hepatitis C

Articles
June 15, 2009

Increased Coffee Consumption May Slow Damage from Hepatitis C

Patients with hepatitis C virus infection who drank three cups or more of coffee per day appear to be less likely to suffer from progression of liver damage caused by the disease, it was reported at the 59th annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). This is the first study to examine the relationship between coffee consumption and its affect on patients with advanced liver disease, Ishak stage 3 or higher. The study was also important because it focused only on patients for whom standard drug therapies were ineffective. Conducted during a 3.5 year HALT-C randomized trial of 1,050 hepatitis C patients, the results reflect two segments of medical applications, some who received no treatment and others who received a form of the medication, interferon. The self-reported questionnaire was completed by 808 of the patients, 711 of whom drank no coffee to two cups daily. Some 97 drank three or more cups a day and, ironically, they also consumed the most alcohol and cigarettes. Despite the known health threats of alcohol and smoking to good health, those liver disease patients who consumed the most alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee had livers that were much healthier than the other participants. There was less steatosis (accumulation of fat in the liver’s tissue), a condition determined by biopsies. These patients also had lower levels of bilirubin (bile), a-fetoprotein (a major plasma protein), and other categories known to indication progression of the disease.

Patients with hepatitis C virus infection who drank three cups or more of coffee per day appear to be less likely to suffer from progression of liver damage caused by the disease, it was reported at the 59th annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD).

This is the first study to examine the relationship between coffee consumption and its affect on patients with advanced liver disease, Ishak stage 3 or higher. The study was also important because it focused only on patients for whom standard drug therapies were ineffective.

Conducted during a 3.5 year HALT-C randomized trial of 1,050 hepatitis C patients, the results reflect two segments of medical applications, some who received no treatment and others who received a form of the medication, interferon.

The self-reported questionnaire was completed by 808 of the patients, 711 of whom drank no coffee to two cups daily. Some 97 drank three or more cups a day and, ironically, they also consumed the most alcohol and cigarettes. Despite the known health threats of alcohol and smoking to good health, those liver disease patients who consumed the most alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee had livers that were much healthier than the other participants. There was less steatosis (accumulation of fat in the liver’s tissue), a condition determined by biopsies. These patients also had lower levels of bilirubin (bile), a-fetoprotein (a major plasma protein),  and other categories known to indication progression of the disease.

At the 13-month follow-up, outcome rates continued to decrease more for those who consumed three or more cups per day than those who drank little or no coffee leading researchers to claim that “coffee consumption may slow the progression of fibrotic liver disease” (the result of the liver forming excessive fibrous connective tissue.)

As an observational study, it may not have addressed all the possible factors possible and coffee may be a marker for other activity occurring in the liver. How people drank their coffee was not considered: adding or eliminating milk, sugar, or artificial creamers or sweeteners, and it was not indicated when coffee consumption was of decaf or caffeinated. It is, however, well known that 85% of coffee consumed in the US is caffeinated. Because there are so many compounds in coffee, currently estimated at 1,000+, more studies have been recommended.

Those study participants who drank tea evidenced no improvements.

Researchers in the study were from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, Department of Heal and Human Services in Rockville, Maryland. Abstract 1778, AASLD meeting, November 4, 2008.