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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Coffee might be more of a pick-me-up than you think

Coffee might be more of a pick-me-up than you think
Dr Ann Skulas-Ray

One can substantially reduce their risk of getting alcohol-related liver disease by drinking coffee, according to a new study. One alcohol-related liver disease, cirrhosis, is a chronic, progressive disease in which liver cells begin to convert to scar tissue, inhibiting the liver from functioning properly.

One of the most common causes of cirrhosis is excessive alcohol consumption. But there’s good news for those of you who enjoy a drink.

A study published in January shows that increasing coffee consumption by two cups per day could decrease one’s risk of alcohol-related liver damage by up to 44 percent. Coffee consumption also seems to have an additive effect, as four cups per day could reduce the risk by up to 65 percent.

To learn about the significance of this study, the Daily Wildcat spoke with Ann Skulas-Ray, an assistant professor in the UA Department of Nutritional Sciences.

Daily Wildcat: What are your overall thoughts on this study? What are the limitations?

Skulas-Ray: This is an interesting meta-analysis that concluded drinking two cups of coffee per day was associated with a 44 percent lower risk of cirrhosis. It’s important to note that this study only assessed associations and not causality. There may be something different about people who drink coffee that couldn’t be corrected for in the analysis. It’s also possible that something about mild liver damage or risk factors for cirrhosis cause a person to drink less coffee. As the authors point out, a randomized controlled trial would be needed to test whether coffee intake itself can decrease cirrhosis risk.

What exactly is cirrhosis and how does alcohol contribute to the condition?

Cirrhosis is liver damage that is so severe that it causes the liver to stop functioning. Alcohol in high doses contributes to liver damage. Other causes are viruses and obesity. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease has become a big health problem in the U.S.

Have we seen an increase in cirrhosis for binge drinkers in college?

Long-term, heavy alcohol consumption leads to cirrhosis. If people develop a habit of drinking excessively in college that continues for decades, their risk of cirrhosis and many other health problems is much higher. Drinking coffee will not prevent the health consequences of binge drinking.

What are some benefits to coffee consumption besides the decrease in cirrhosis?

There have been studies finding lower rates of diabetes in people who drink more coffee. It’s also a rich source of plant-based antioxidants. Of course, you don’t get the same benefits if you add lots of sugar and cream.

While coffee consumption seems to have a relationship with lower incidents of cirrhosis, Skulas-Ray said she believes coffee cannot solely prevent the consequences of binge drinking.

One step college students can take is to be more mindful of serving sizes of liquor.

So, how much alcohol can be safely consumed per day to minimize your risk of cirrhosis?

The recommended amount is one drink for women of all ages and men over 65, according to the Mayo Clinic. For men under 65, no more than two drinks per day are recommended. On a night out, one drink is measured differently depending on the alcohol being consumed. For example, one drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. 

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