Drinking up to four cups of coffee a day could be linked to a reduced risk of developing chronic liver disease and related liver conditions, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the UK universities of Southampton and Edinburgh found drinking the beverage - either caffeinated or decaffeinated - was associated with a reduced risk of developing and dying from chronic liver disease compared to not drinking coffee.
The benefit peaked at three to four cups per day, according to the study.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers had a 21 per cent reduced risk of chronic liver disease, a 20 per cent reduced risk of chronic or fatty liver disease, and a 49 per cent reduced risk of death from chronic liver disease.
Researchers say the maximum benefit was seen in the group who drank ground coffee, which contains high levels of the ingredients kahweol and cafestol.
They say these have been shown to be beneficial against chronic liver disease in animals.
Instant coffee, which has low levels of kahweol and cafestol, was also associated with a reduced risk of chronic liver disease.
While the reduction in risk was smaller than that associated with ground coffee, the finding may suggest that other ingredients - or potentially a combination of ingredients - may be beneficial, the study suggests.
"The benefits we see from our study may mean (coffee) could offer a potential preventative treatment for chronic liver disease," the study's lead author, Dr Oliver Kennedy, said:
"This would be especially valuable in countries with lower income and worse access to healthcare and where the burden of chronic liver disease is highest."
The authors studied UK Biobank data on 495,585 participants with known coffee consumption, who were followed over a median of 10.7 years to monitor who developed chronic liver disease and related liver conditions.
Of all participants included in the study, 78 per cent (384,818) drank ground or instant coffee, while 22 per cent (109,767) did not drink any type of coffee.
During the study period, there were 3600 cases of chronic liver disease, including 301 deaths.
There were also 5439 cases of chronic liver disease or steatosis - a build of up fat in the liver also known as fatty liver disease - and 184 cases of Hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer.
However, the researchers caution that as coffee consumption was only reported when participants first enrolled in the study, the study does not account for any changes in the amount or type of coffee they consumed over the 10.7-year study period.
As participants were predominantly white and from a higher socio-economic background, the findings may be difficult to generalise to other countries and populations.
The study is published in the BMC Public Health journal.
Australian Associated Press