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Coffee Drinking Associated with Lower Risk for Alcohol-Related Liver Disease

CHICAGO - Drinking coffee may be related to a reduced 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/Archives 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, according to background information in the article. Most alcohol drinkers, however, never develop cirrhosis; other factors that may play a role include genetics, diet and nutrition, smoking and the interaction of alcohol with other toxins that damage the liver.

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.

By the end of 2001, 330 participants had been diagnosed with cirrhosis, including 199 with alcoholic cirrhosis. For each cup of coffee they drank per day, participants were 22 percent less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis. Drinking coffee was also associated with a slight reduction in risk for other types of cirrhosis. Among those who had their blood drawn, liver enzyme levels were higher among individuals who drank more alcohol, indicating liver disease or damage; however, those who drank both alcohol and coffee had lower levels than those who drank alcohol but did not drink coffee, with the strongest link among the heaviest drinkers
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