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One Major Effect Drinking Coffee Has on Your Liver, According To Experts

A Cleveland Clinic expert reveals a hidden benefit of coffee drinking.

As if you needed one more reason to love your coffee ritual: A liver specialist at the Cleveland Clinic has shared what research shows is an important way coffee may be benefiting your long-term health, and may potentially even reduce your risk of developing liver cancer.

You already know that the liver is an important organ that filters out the harmful elements from the foods we eat and drink. Actually, says Jamile Wakim-Fleming, M.D., a gastroenterologist at the Cleveland Clinic, the liver is even a bigger player in processing what we ingest than most of us may realize.

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Wakim-Fleming weighed in on the Cleveland Clinic's blog to explain that the liver is the first organ to metabolize the foods we eat. Sometimes, as a result of this, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can occur when extra fat builds up in liver cells—and, per the Cleveland Clinic, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease "affects one in four people in the U.S., mostly in those who carry excess weight or have diabetes or high cholesterol." Unfortunately, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can cause cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, which in turn may lead to liver cancer or liver failure—both of which can be deadly.

The good news, Wakim-Fleming noted, is that one common diet habit can have a significant impact in keeping all these liver disorders at bay: Yep, it's coffee, which the G.I. specialist said is especially helpful when it comes to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Meanwhile, the article notes, supporting research has shown that coffee can even help protect the liver from further illness if the individual has already been diagnosed with conditions like nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis C, or cirrhosis. While it all involves sophisticated physiological processes, Wakim-Fleming says the liver benefits of coffee all drip down to one basic scientific understanding: Coffee contains antioxidants and other compounds which can play a big role in decreasing liver inflammation.

She also offered a few tips for this sip that can make coffee most beneficial in protecting the liver from nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. For more, check out Popular Foods That Are Wrecking Your Body, Say Dietitians.

When it comes to protecting your liver, decaf won't do.

hot coffee in white mug with beans

To deliver the most protection to your liver, said Wakim-Fleming, don't go for decaf—you have to consume regular coffee. She added that's because caffeine contains inherent properties that are helpful to the liver.

There's a certain frequency of drinking coffee to prevent liver disease.

coffee workout

To help your liver, Wakim-Fleming said drinking coffee has to be a very regular practice—in fact, she said, coffee only packs big liver benefit if you drink it daily.

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There's a certain amount of daily coffee drinking that supports the liver.


Wakim-Fleming said a solid coffee amount to prevent liver problems is three cups a day. Interestingly, the Cleveland Clinic added that for patients who have been diagnosed with hepatitis or fatty liver disease, it might sounds steep—but up to six cups a day might be OK for individuals with these liver conditions.

For liver health, black coffee is golden.


Black coffee is ideal for liver health, Wakim-Fleming advised, as dressing up coffee with cream or sugar pours on added fat and stress for the liver to process. The Cleveland Clinic added: "If you just can't stomach it black, swap sugar for artificial sweeteners. Add skim milk or plant-based milk instead of cream."

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Note: Going big on coffee is definitely not for everyone.


On this topic, the Cleveland Clinic notes: "If you have an irregular heart rate or other heart problems, excessive coffee might be dangerous. Coffee might also cause problems if you have lung cancer." Also, if caffeine leads to symptoms like headaches, anxiety, jitters or otherwise, an aggressive caffeine intake on the regular may not be the healthiest move.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more about Krissy