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Coffee 1, Cirrhosis 0

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And your mom said it would stunt your growth. "Drinking coffee could help protect against alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver," according to a Kaiser Permanente report.

Kaiser Permanente conducted a study of over 125,000 health plan members who received a medical examination between 1978 and 1985. They kept track of their alcohol, coffee and tea consumption through a questionnaire, and by the end of 2001, 330 people had developed liver disease and 199 had alcoholic cirrhosis.

Interestingly enough, the pattern of disease development shows that the more coffee a person drank, the less likely they were to develop alcoholic cirrhosis.

"Consuming coffee seems to have some protective benefits against alcoholic cirrhosis," said Arthur Klatsky, MD, a Kaiser Permanente investigator, "and the more coffee a person consumes, the less risk they seem to have of being hospitalized or dying of alcoholic cirrhosis."

The data shows that one cup of coffee per day made a subject 20 percent less likely to have alcoholic cirrhosis. Two to three cups: 40 percent less likely. Four or more cups of coffee a day indicated an 80 percent decrease in the risk of having alcoholic cirrhosis.

According to WebMD, alcoholic cirrhosis is a life-threatening disease that can develop in people who drink excessively over a 10-15 year period: "At least 10% to 15% of people who drink alcohol excessively will develop cirrhosis. Of the 26,000 people who die from cirrhosis each year, at least 40% have a history of alcohol abuse.There are other types of cirrhosis, but the study did not show that coffee had any effect on non-alcoholic cirrhosis."

The report is generating good play in the media. CNN.com ran an article about the findings. CBS News, ABC News and MSNBC are also running the story. Kaiser Permanente's public relations team, including Kevin McCormack and Michelle Ponte, have also seen their efforts result in coverage in hundreds of newspapers today including papers in China, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and all over the United States.

"This is not a recommendation to drink coffee," said Klatsky, "nor is it a recommendation that the way to deal with heavy alcohol consumption is to drink more coffee."

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  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    If you don’t drink to excess, you do not develop alcoholic cirrhosis. Are you saying that drunks should follow up their alcoholic binges with coffee binges?

  • Aha, so that’s how we all survived university (or college for the North Americans).

    I always knew there was something weird about not being able to drink coffee after starting to take anti-depressants. Damn you, anti-depressants!