If you've given your liver a bashing over the years, it might be a good idea to drink more coffee (and cut back on the booze). Drinking two or more cups of coffee a day could significantly reduce the risk of liver cirrhosis, according to a new study.
See also: Three beers that can actually be good for you
Researchers at Southampton University analysed data involving 430,000 people and found a link between increased coffee consumption and reduced risk of cirrhosis. The more coffee consumed, the greater the benefit. One cup a day lowered the risk of cirrhosis by 22%, two cups by 43%, three cups by 57%, and four cups by 65%.
Cirrhosis can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption, immune disorders, hepatitis and fatty liver disease. Lead study author Dr. Oliver Kennedy said: "Cirrhosis is potentially fatal and there is no cure as such. Therefore, it is significant that the risk of developing cirrhosis may be reduced by consumption of coffee, a cheap, ubiquitous and well-tolerated beverage."
However, he warned that it's not clear exactly how coffee benefits liver health: "Coffee is a complex mixture containing hundreds of chemical compounds, and it is unknown which of these is responsible for protecting the liver," he said.
1. Combats depression
Drinking coffee doesn't just perk you up, there's evidence to suggest it may protect against long-term mental health problems. A recent meta-analysis involving more than 300,000 participants found that each cup of coffee a day reduced the risk of developing depression by around 8%.
A separate study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that drinking two to four cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of suicide by 50%. Experts believe coffee may act as a mild antidepressant by aiding in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.
2. Wards off dementia
If you're middle-aged you might want to dust off the cappuccino machine. Research has found that middle-aged people who drink between three to five cups of coffee per day have a 65% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or dementia in later life.
3. Good for the heart
Men who regularly drink coffee are significantly less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, according to researchers in Japan. A study of more than 76,000 men found that those who consumed one to two cups each day were 38% less likely to die from a cardiovascular-related disease.
4. Reduces risk of diabetes
Harvard researchers looked at coffee consumption and occurrence of type-2 diabetes in more than 40,000 men. They found that long-term coffee drinkers had a significantly reduced risk of developing type-2 diabetes. The more they drank, the greater the benefit. Just don't add cream and sugar!
5. Helps reduce risk and lesson symptoms of Parkinson's disease
Drinking coffee may help those with Parkinson's disease to control their movement, according to a 2012 report in ScienceDaily. Lead researcher Ronald Postuma, MD, said, "Studies have shown that people who use caffeine are less likely to develop Parkinson's disease, but this is one of the first studies in humans to show that caffeine can help with movement symptoms for people who already have the disease."
6. Boosts athletic performance
Coffee doesn't just wake you up and help you perform better in the office - it could improve your time on the running track too. Speaking to The New York Times, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky of McMaster University in Canada said: "There is so much data on this that it's unbelievable. It's just unequivocal that caffeine improves performance. It's been shown in well-respected labs in multiple places around the world."
According to Dr. Tarnopolsky, the performance improvement in controlled laboratory settings can be up to 25%. In the real world, the improvement may average at about 5% - still significant if you want to get your best time or win a race.
Caffeine is believed to increase the number of fatty acids in the bloodstream, which allows the muscles to absorb and burn those fats for fuel, therefore saving the body's small reserves of carbohydrates for later use.
And the other side of the story...
Before you rush to Starbucks, it's worth noting that other recent studies have found a link between coffee consumption and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. And if you regularly drink five cups a day, you might want to cut down for the sake of your waistline. A 2013 study found that consuming five or more cups a day increased the amount of fat stored in the abdomen.
Three products for coffee lovers:
Andrew James 1100 Watt Digital Filter Coffee Maker, £22.99
Jack Stonehouse 15 bar Espresso and Cappuccino Coffee, £49.99
De'Longhi Vintage Icona ECOV310.AZ Pump Espresso and Cappuccino Machine, £91.99