Coffee: A Drug Defense Against Liver Disease

In Brief:

Statistics show that 83% of American adults drink coffee. However, there are pros and cons to consuming this popular beverage every day. So should we drink that daily cup o’ joe? Research suggests that people with chronic liver disease should – due to coffee’s protective effects on the liver. Many studies confirm that coffee drinkers who consume three cups or more a day have a lower risk of liver disease.

Chronic liver diseases, such as fatty liver disease and hepatitis, typically lead to liver fibrosis. Fibrosis is a condition in which one’s normal liver tissue is replaced by non-functioning scar tissue. The liver is typically soft and pliable like brand new Play-Doh. Scar tissue cells make the liver stiff so it resembles dried out Play-Doh. With advanced fibrosis, the liver is no longer able to bend or twist and loses its ability to function properly.

Dr. Patrizia Carrieri, a researcher at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), investigated the association between coffee consumption and liver fibrosis in individuals at high risk for the disease, such as people living with HIV and Hepatitis C. Her research showed that even in this population, drinking three or more cups of coffee reduces the severity of liver fibrosis. She attributes its benefit to two main anti-fibrotic (fibrosis-inhibiting) compounds in coffee: caffeine and chlorogenic acid. However, people who drink decaffeinated coffee also experience antifibrotic effects, suggesting chlorogenic acid can independently protect against fibrosis.
The liver is soft and pliable like new Play-Doh.
Most scientists agree that coffee is healthy, but not all coffee is created equal. Dr. Carrieri stresses the importance of maximizing coffee’s benefits through careful selection and preparation. For example, Robusta coffee beans contain almost twice as much caffeine and chlorogenic acid as compared to Arabica coffee beans. Decreased roast time and adequate filtering can also reduce decay of chlorogenic acid. Dr. Carrieri also believes that coffee intake should be joined with other behaviors such as not smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight, and having a diet rich in omega 3. Combining coffee intake with a healthy lifestyle is like using mouthwash and toothpaste to clean your mouth. They work well independently, but the user receives optimum benefits when the two are combined. Maintaining this balance most effectively lowers risk of getting liver disease.

Dr. Rowen Zetterman, an internist, gastroenterologist, and hepatologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, states that the best way to fight hepatic fibrosis is to avoid acquiring liver-related disease in the first place. He advocates vaccinations for diseases linked to liver fibrosis, such as hepatitis B, but also reduction of alcohol consumption and avoidance of high-risk behaviors.

Though evidence suggests that coffee can be a factor that reduces the risk of liver fibrosis, scientists have only scratched the surface. Mortality risks due to liver fibrosis are still highly associated with unhealthy behaviors and lifestyles. At this point, knowing what we know, perhaps people should take matters (and mugs) into their own hands and enjoy a daily dose of joe.


Dr. Rowen Zetterman is a professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. In addition to this, he is an internist, gastroenterologist, and hepatologist. Dr. Zetterman’s research interests include work in the pathogenesis of alcoholic liver disease and treatment of liver disease. His hobbies include travel, fishing, and spending time with his seven grandchildren.

Dr. Patrizia Carrieri is a research professor at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) – University Aix-Marseille in the field of epidemiology and public health. Her work primarily focuses on the impact of psychoactive substances, or drugs that affect the mind (tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, and coffee), and she works to improve the lifestyles and clinical outcomes of people living with HIV and Hepatitis C. Her research in addiction helped change the 2016 French Health law which now promotes novel Hepatitis C preventive interventions.

Works Cited

  1. “20+ Good Health Reasons To Drink Coffee.” Caffeine Informer, 27 July 2018,
  2. Carrieri, Patrizia. “E-Mail Interview by Author.” 9 July 2018.
  3. Fernau, Karen. “Coffee Grinds Fuel for the Nation.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 10 Apr. 2013,
  4. Hyman, Mark. “10 Reasons To Quit Your Coffee.” The Huffington Post, HuffPost, 31 Aug. 2012,
  5. Koff, Raymond S. “Immunizations for Patients with Chronic Liver Disease.” Edited by Sanjiv Chopra et al., UpToDate, Wolters Kluwer, 24 Apr. 2017,
  6. Machado, Silmara Rodrigues, et al. “Coffee Has Hepatoprotective Benefits in Brazilian Patients with Chronic Hepatitis C Even in Lower Daily Consumption than in American and European Populations.” ScienceDirect, Elsevier, 2014,
  7. Nall, Rachel. “Liver Fibrosis: Stages, Treatment, and Symptoms.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 11 Jan. 2018,
  8. Zetterman, Rowan. “Phone Interview by Author.” 6 July 2018.

Image Credits:
Feature Image:
Graphic by Staff Illustrator: Annie Zhou

Story Image:

Graphic by Staff Illustrator: Annie Zhou

Chief Editor: Akila Saravanan
Creative Team Manager: Lucia Tian
Team Editor: Michael Miller
Team Graphic Designer: Annie Zhou

This article was written by Sahana Sridar. As always, before leaving a response to this article please view our Rules of Conduct. Thanks! -cSw Editorial Staff