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Coffee Protects Liver in Men, Perhaps, Says Inconclusive Study

Image: Coffee Protects Liver in Men, Perhaps, Says Inconclusive Study

By Hillary Mayell   |   Monday, 25 Mar 2013 02:46 PM

Coffee protects your liver. Or not. In an extremely non-conclusive study published online March 14 in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, scientists reported findings on the correlation between coffee and alcohol consumption.

Roughly 19,00 Finnish men and women between the ages of 25 and 74 were queried on their alcohol and coffee intake habits. Blood tests measuring the participants’ gamma-glutamyl transferase levels were also analyzed. Elevated levels of GGT, a liver enzyme, have been implicated in liver disease.

The study found that for men who were heavy drinkers and also consumed five or more cups of coffee a day, GGT levels were reduced by 50 percent compared to men who drank no coffee.

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Coffee consumption had no impact on the GGT levels of women drinkers.

"The findings are thought-provoking, though it is impossible to derive meaning from them," said Dr. David Bernstein, chief of the division of hepatology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., told MyHealthNewsDaily. Dr. Bernstein was not involved in the new study.

Heavy drinking in this study was defined as more than 24 alcoholic drinks per week, or about 3.5 drinks daily for men.

Long considered to be an aid to helping an intoxicated person “sober up,” the correlation between coffee consumption and reduced incidence of liver cancer has been studied before. While scientists have been able to establish “statistically significant” relationships between drinking coffee and reduced liver cancer, no causality has been identified.

Factors such as obesity, age, smoking, and exercise also impact GGT levels, as does how recently was the subject drinking.

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"If I go out and have a six-pack tonight, my [GGT] levels will be up, but it doesn't mean I have liver disease," Bernstein told MyHealthNewsDaily.

More studies will surely follow. In the meantime, heavy drinking men, don’t count on gallons of coffee to protect you from liver cancer.

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