A new study published in the Journal of Hepatology showed that drinking a few cups of coffee and herbal tea a day may help prevent stiffening of the liver.

What Is Liver Fibrosis?

Liver fibrosis is stiffening of the liver caused by the excessive accumulation of tough, fibrous scar tissue due to the chronic inflammation and liver cell death that is provoked by various liver diseases.

Chronic liver diseases hold rank as the 12th cause of worldwide death, and most liver-related mortality is linked to the progression of cirrhosis, the final stage of advanced liver fibrosis. Unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as sedentary living, a lack of physical activity, and a diet rich in unhealthy and processed foods, devoid of nutrients and replete with artificial sugars, contribute greatly to liver fibrosis and disease.

How Can Coffee and Tea Help Prevent Liver Fibrosis?

Previous studies have shown that coffee exerts health benefits on the liver. It can beneficially impact liver enzyme elevations, viral hepatitis, NAFLD, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. Researchers wanted to see if coffee had a similar benefit on liver hardening, or fibrosis.

They examined data from the Rotterdam Study, a large population-based cohort study made up of 2,424 people 45 years or older living in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Participants participated in a comprehensive physical workup that included hepatological imaging using abdominal ultrasound and Fibroscan®, which quantitatively measures liver stiffness. Participants also took an externally validated 389-item Food Frequency Questionnaire that included extensive information on coffee and tea consumption.

Coffee consumption was divided into three categories:

  1. None
  2. Moderate (0-3 cups a day)
  3. Frequent (more than 3 cups a day)

Tea consumption was divided into type—herbal, green, or black—and then into either none, or an amount greater than zero.

An analysis of the data showed that those who frequently drank coffee had a lower chance of having high liver stiffness values, which translates to less scarring of the liver. These results held independent of lifestyle, environmental, or metabolic traits.

Research also revealed that participants who frequently consumed coffee and herbal tea in any amount had significantly lower liver stiffness values. From this, researchers concluded that coffee and herbal tea may help prevent liver scarring before liver disease has even developed.

Other scientists issue a word of caution against interpreting these results in a purely positive light due to some limitations in the study. In an editorial, Salvatore Petta, MD, PhD, of the Section of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Di.Bi.M.I.S., University of Palermo, Italy, and Giulio Marchesini, MD, of the Department of Medical and Surgical Sciences (DIMEC), ”Alma Mater” University, Bologna, Italy, point out that:

  • the study was only made up of Caucasians
  • the no-coffee and no-tea control groups were underrepresented
  • the amount of tea consumed was low, making it difficult to determine the protective benefit
  • there are more than 100 compounds in coffee and tea, with many of the same polyphenols and caffeine in varying amounts.

How much tea and coffee to drink in order to help benefit your liver? Well, the precise amount is yet to be determined.