Coffee Consumption Could Protect Heavy Drinkers From Alcoholic Hepatitis

A study of heavy drinkers found that those who drank coffee regularly were less than half as likely to develop alcoholic hepatitis. A certain genotype was also found to be a significant protective factor.

A study of heavy drinkers found that those who drank coffee regularly were less than half as likely to develop alcoholic hepatitis. A certain genotype was also found to be a significant protective factor.

The findings of the case-control study performed on 340 heavy drinkers were presented by Naga P. Chalasani, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis at the American College of Gastroenterology 2016 Annual Scientific Meeting.

Chalasani and his colleagues examined differences between 190 heavy drinkers who had been diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis and 150 heavy drinkers without the condition. Participants were considered heavy drinkers if they had consumed a daily average of at least 60 g of ethanol for men, or 40 g for women, continuously over the past 5 years and continuing into the present.

Of the heavy drinkers without hepatitis, 43% reported regular coffee drinking, compared to only 20% of the group with hepatitis. After multivariate analysis, researchers found an odds ratio of 0.24 for hepatitis among coffee drinkers. The mean daily consumption of coffee for the subjects with hepatitis was 1 cup, as opposed to an average of 3 cups per day for the non-hepatitis control cases.

The study also found that those with the PNPLA3 C/C genotype were much less likely to have hepatitis, and this effect was amplified when combined with the protective effect of coffee drinking. Just over 25% of coffee-drinking participants with the C/C genotype had alcoholic hepatitis, but 86% of non-coffee-drinkers with the G/G genotype had the disease.

When asked about the possible mechanisms of the relationship, Chalasani told MedPage Today that coffee could potentially have an antioxidant effect, but more research was needed to know for sure. He also dismissed the suggestion that coffee drinking could be a marker of another lifestyle factor that significantly decreased the subjects’ risk of hepatitis, because “these people are alcoholics” without many other plausible protective factors.

Numerous previous studies investigating the link between coffee consumption and liver health have found coffee to be a protective factor. For instance, a 1994 study of patients in Italy who drank over 101 g of ethanol daily found that the relative risk of liver cirrhosis increased from 5.5 for coffee drinkers to 10.8 for those who did not drink coffee.