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Caffeine, HCV and Liver Health

The Editors at Hepatitis Central
January 27, 2005

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The following report is of interest because I’ve heard for many years that liver patients need to abstain from caffeine consumption. To be honest, I’ve consistently included about a cup a day in my diet (along with a pot of green tea and lots of water).

This article makes me feel better, still, about my choice. I never thought of it as being therapeutic, I just figured that one cup would not do much damage (if any).

Even though it is only one study, this is a fairly large study.

Incidentally, I do not drink any alcohol at all anymore. It is common knowledge that alcohol is a potent liver toxin. In fact, it is used in a medical procedure to kill small liver cancer tumors. They actually inject alcohol into the specific site of the tumor because alcohol is such and effective and efficient liver cell killer.

Coffee and Caffeine Consumption Reduce the Risk of Elevated Serum Alanine Aminotransferase Levels

Based on experimental and epidemiologic studies, researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases investigated whether coffee and caffeine consumption reduced the risk of elevated alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activity in persons at high risk for liver injury in a national, population-based study.

Participants were 5,944 adults in the Third US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994, with excessive alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis, iron overload, overweight, or impaired glucose metabolism.

Liver injury was indicated by abnormal serum ALT activity (>43 U/L).


Elevated ALT activity was found in 8.7% of this high-risk population.

In unadjusted analysis, lower ALT activity was associated with increasing consumption of coffee (P = .001) and caffeine (P = .001). Multivariate logistic regression analyses showed that the risk of elevated ALT activity declined with increasing intake of coffee (P for trend = .034) and caffeine (P < .001).

Comparing persons who drank more than 2 cups per day with non coffee drinkers, the odds ratio was .56 (95% confidence interval, .31–1.0). Comparing persons in the highest caffeine quintile with the lowest, the odds ratio was .31 (95% confidence interval, .16–.61).

These relationships were consistent across subgroups at risk for liver injury and were relatively unchanged when analyses included the entire population or when limited to persons without impaired liver function or right upper quadrant pain.

Fasting insulin concentrations did not mediate the effects.

In conclusion, the authors write, “In this large, national, population-based study, among persons at high risk for liver injury, consumption of coffee and especially caffeine was associated with lower risk of elevated ALT activity.”

This study was supported by a contract from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.



C E Ruhl and J E Everhart. Coffee and caffeine consumption reduce the risk of elevated serum alanine aminotransferase activity in the United States. Gastroenterology 128(1): 24-32. January 2005.


Magic Bullet For Hepatitis C?

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HCV Market Analysis Redux

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