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Coffee Consumption Is Associated With Lower Liver Stiffness

Written by | 3 Nov 2021 | Hepatology

High coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk for increased liver stiffness (a proxy for fibrosis) but not with steatosis, according to researchers at the University of Michigan.1

In a dietary analysis involving over 4,500 adults, drinking more than 3 cups of coffee (versus none) was associated with a 0.9 kPa reduction (95% CI -1.6 to -0.1, P=0.03) and with a reduced odds of liver stiffness (≥9.5 kPa; OR 0.4, 95% CI 0.2-1.0, P=0.05).

For this study 4,510 participants (mean age 48 years) from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were evaluated. They underwent two 24-hour dietary recall exams and transient elastography investigations. Hepatitis patients were excluded.

The main outcome evaluated the quantity of coffee consumed and its association with liver stiffness measurements (LSM), with a ≥9.5 kPa considered a threshold for advanced fibrosis. Controls included those who reported tea and decaffeinated coffee consumption.

About three-quarters of the participants were overweight or obese and about half engaged in physical activity. Comorbidities included diabetes (11%) and chronic liver disease (5%). About 63% were white and 23% consumed a minimum of two daily alcoholic drinks. Most participants (n=3,797) had LSM values below 7.0 kPa, while 415 had values ranging from 7 to 9.5 kPa, and 298 had values of 9.5 kPa or above.

Adjusting for the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and Healthy Eating Index-2015 scores, coffee consumption was still associated with a reduction of LSM (OR 0.4, 95% CI 0.1-0.9, P=0.03).

The analysis had several limitations, the researchers acknowledged, including the potential for unmeasured confounding, recall bias, and the limited dietary data.

One explanation for the findings could be that caffeine reduces fibrosis, the authors suggest.  However, this is at odds with results from a recent UK study, which showed that all types of coffee (including decaffeinated) were protective against chronic liver disease.2


  1. Niezen S, et al “Coffee consumption is associated with lower liver stiffness: A nationally representative study” Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.cgh.2021.09.042.
  2. Kennedy, O.J., Fallowfield, J.A., Poole, R. et al.All coffee types decrease the risk of adverse clinical outcomes in chronic liver disease: a UK Biobank study. BMC Public Health 21, 970 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-10991-7
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