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How Do Coffee and Caffeine Affect the Liver and Kidneys?

Many people boast a coffee habit that is hard to shake off. They enjoy their daily cups without much consideration for the effects of their caffeine fix on their health. As it happens, caffeine causes many changes in the body. If you’re a coffee-lover, you should take the time and make an effort to learn just how drinking coffee might be affecting your different organs.

As popular as it is, coffee comes across as simple and familiar, even mundane despite the boost its active chemical gives. But, on the contrary, it’s pretty complex. There are many layers to the coffee experience, and its relationship to health could be rather involved.

How Do Coffee and Caffeine Affect the Liver and Kidneys?

To add to the confusion, recent studies are now debunking the results of older studies. So your impression of coffee may no longer be accurate if it’s based on what you were told as a child.

Indeed, the tides have turned as far as coffee’s reputation is concerned. Research results are showing that it does not deserve the bad rap that the previous decades had given it. These days, coffee is considered to actually be good for the health.

Nonetheless, as earlier mentioned, the human body is made of different organs, and coffee may affect each one differently. So let’s look at how it impacts liver and kidney health.

Effect of Coffee on the Liver

Current knowledge on the relationship between coffee and liver health is favorable, based on numerous studies. Supposedly, paraxanthine is produced when the body digests caffeine. This is a chemical that slows scar tissue growth in cases of fibrosis. This quality may also help in fighting alcohol-related cirrhosis, liver cancer, hepatitis C, and non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease.

Besides caffeine, coffee also has kahweol and cafestol, chemicals known to help combat cancer. Meanwhile, the acids in coffee, both caffeinated and otherwise, may work to deter the hepatitis B-causing virus.

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These claims are backed by multiple studies. Here are two of the most significant:

2016 British Liver Trust Report

In 2016, the British Liver Trust reviewed, analyzed, and compiled various studies into one report titled “Coffee consumption and the liver - the potential health benefits.” Its main findings are the following:

  • Regular moderate consumption of coffee may prevent liver cancer, which the World Health Organization has confirmed after reviewing over a thousand related studies in humans.
  • Coffee intake has the capability of slowing down the progression of some patients’ liver disease.
  • Coffee lowers the risk of liver problems like cirrhosis and fibrosis.

Take note that these positive effects apply no matter the preparation of the coffee.

2021 BMC Public Health Study

In June of 2021, “All coffee types decrease the risk of adverse clinical outcomes in chronic liver disease: a UK Biobank Study” was published in the BioMed Central Public Health journal. It involved almost half a million participants over the course of a decade and produced the following very similar findings.

  • Drinking coffee considerably reduces the risk of various liver diseases, including liver cancer, chronic liver disease, and fatty liver disease.
  • The sweet spot falls on the range of three to four cups of coffee, caffeinated or otherwise, a day.
  • The perceived benefit extends across all kinds of coffee.

There was some contention to the results from Prof. Nathan Davies from the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health of the University College London. He cautioned that the findings might not be universally applicable since they were primarily based on white individuals of an upper socioeconomic status. He said that the study proved in no way that coffee is an anti-liver disease superfood, adding that there were even studies from which the opposite could be inferred.

Effect of Coffee on the Kidneys

Besides being a mental and physical stimulant, caffeine may also cause a rise in blood pressure and have a diuretic effect. This implies that coffee would have a consequential effect on the kidneys; however, there are ways in which coffee and caffeine are known to impact kidney health directly.

For instance, oxalate stones are among the most common kinds of kidney stones developed by people. Since coffee is one of the foremost oxalate sources, many urologists advise people prone to develop kidney stones to minimize their coffee consumption; however, new evidence may soon debunk this belief.

Meanwhile, there are conflicting findings on the association of coffee with kidney cancer. Some studies found a lower risk of renal cell carcinoma in relation to consumption of caffeinated coffee. On the other hand, other studies showed a link between decaffeinated coffee intake and higher renal cell carcinoma subtypes. Further research is needed to form a clearer conclusion.

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As expected, numerous studies have been made on this matter. Here is the most recent being cited today.

2019 UK Biobank Study

This analysis of the UK Biobank baseline data and its findings were published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases in 2019. Titled “Coffee Consumption and Kidney Function: A Mendelian Randomization Study,” the study aimed to figure out the effect of coffee on kidney function.

Using genetic data, it showed evidence of a beneficial effect, particularly on the reduction in kidney stones. The higher the coffee and caffeine consumption, the lower the risk of kidney stones. Findings indicated that going from a cup to a cup and a half of coffee a day reduced the risk by 40 percent. The encouraging outcome is something that the researchers felt hopeful about, given the widespread coffee intake and the increasing issue of chronic kidney disease all over the world.

Other studies have also shown the positive effect of coffee on the kidneys. For example, a study in Korea performed in 2008 analyzed the habits of thousands of women, which led to the finding that coffee drinking may be associated with a decrease in the prevalence of kidney problems. Another study in 2016 involved the coffee-growing villages along the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua and found that these places manifested a lower prevalence of chronic kidney disease.

Final Thoughts

While things are looking promising in terms of regarding coffee as a possible weapon against liver and kidney diseases, more research is necessary. If you’re already battling health issues involving either or both of these organs, it’s best to look to your doctor for guidance and instruction regarding coffee consumption.

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