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Drinking Four Cups of Tea or Coffee Protects Liver: Study

Aug 19, 2013 08:24 AM EDT

According to a new study, drinking moderate amounts of tea or coffee can reduce fatty liver in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

The study was conducted by researchers at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the Duke University School of Medicine.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is also called steatohepatitis. The disease is a common complication of obesity and is characterized by deposition of fat and inflammation in the liver.

Many studies have been published on the benefits and harms of drinking coffee and tea. Coffee consumption has been linked with developing acute myocardial infarction but was seen to significantly lower incidence of Parkinson's disease (PD). Coffee intake has also been linked to reduced risk of common type of skin cancer and increased odds of living for a long time.

Recent studies have found that moderate coffee consumption can cut suicide risk, but drinking excess amounts of coffee could shorten a person's lifespan (there are drawbacks to this study). Drinking large amount of tea has been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer.  

The present study was based on cell cultures and mouse models. Researchers found that caffeine stimulates the breakdown of lipids present in the liver. The mice in the study were fed with a diet high in fat, yet they had reduced risk of fatty liver if their diets included caffeine.

The study results showed that the amount of caffeine present in about four cups of tea/coffee can reduce and protect the liver against progression of NAFLD. The strength of the study lies in its design as researchers conducted experiments on cell lines and mouse models.

"This is the first detailed study of the mechanism for caffeine action on lipids in liver and the results are very interesting," Paul Yen, M.D., one of the study authors said in a news release. "Coffee and tea are so commonly consumed and the notion that they may be therapeutic, especially since they have a reputation for being "bad" for health, is especially enlightening."

Other experts have earlier noted that drinking over 4-5 cups of coffee could lead to health complications. Note that many products contain high levels of caffeine and you might already be getting all the caffeine that you need to maintain a healthy diet.  

Researchers added that the study could lead to the development of therapeutic agents that have caffeine but not the negative effects related with the compound.

The study is published in the journal Hepatology.

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