All that's why this physician was pleasantly surprised by the results of his new study in the December 2005 Gastroenterology. It showed a protective effect from coffee and tea. People who routinely drank more than two cups of coffee or tea per day faced only half the risk of being hospitalized with cirrhosis and other types of serious liver disease as did people consuming less of these drinks. The data, collected as part of a federal survey of a cross-section of U.S. adults, spanned roughly 20 years and included 9,849 people.
The researchers identified people who had been hospitalized for or died from liver disease during the follow-up period and compared their earlier reported consumption of caffeinated beverages with that of people who hadn't had liver disease serious enough for hospitalization. The comparison revealed no effect from caffeine. However, the researchers then restricted their analysis to people at high risk of liver disease, such as those who were seriously overweight or had diabetes, were over 40, or reported downing at least one alcoholic drink per day.
Among these people overall, the risk of death or hospitalization from liver disease during the 20-year follow-up was 1.4 percent. However, among people who drank less than a cup of coffee or tea per day, the risk was 1.8 percent, and among study participants drinking one to two cups per day, the risk was 1.6 percent. Among people drinking even more of the beverages, the risk of serious liver disease was just 1.1 percent.
No effect on liver disease emerged among people drinking only decaf coffee, instant coffee, herbal teas, or cola. Data on these sources became available only in an early-1980s follow-up survey of the participants. However, when caffeine from all sources—including colas and chocolate—was summed, a related pattern took shape: Risk of liver disease dropped as total caffeine consumption climbed. Everhart notes that coffee consumption dominated these caffeine-consumption totals.
"I keep bugging my colleagues that they need to study this [coffee-tea-liver association] in a more rigorous way to find the potential mechanism of action for caffeine or other compounds in these beverages," Everhart says. Indeed, he notes, with more than a decade of increasingly stronger hints that caffeinated beverages are beneficial, "we still have nothing but speculation about why they might be protective."
My continued admiration goes to these wonderful caffienated products of nature known as coffee and tea.
However, if you are someone who proves that there's a chemical in coffee that cuses impotence, I'm buying you a cup of decaf Sanka. That should be sufficient punishment.
[Turn signal: Andrew, of course!]