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Caffeinated drinks may be good for the liver, study finds

That cup (or three) of tea or coffee you drink every morning could be doing more than just perking you up before the work day. According to a new study, led by an international team of researchers from Duke University’s School of Medicine and Duke Graduate Medical School of Singapore, increased caffeine intake could reduce fatty liver in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

NAFLD is the leading cause of fatty liver outside of excessive alcohol consumption. Across the globe, some 70 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes and obesity, are living with NAFLD. Within the United States, it is estimated that 30 percent of adults have this condition. In Singapore, the disease is also on the rise. Thus far, there have been no effective treatments for NAFLD other than diet and exercise.

The study authors, led by associate professor and research fellow Dr. Paul Yen and Dr. Rohit Sinha, of the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Program at Duke Graduate Medical School in Singapore, observed that caffeine stimulates the metabolization of lipids kept in liver cells and lowered the fatty liver of mice that were given a high-fat diet. These results suggest that consuming the caffeine equivalent of four cups of coffee or tea a day could be beneficial in the prevention of and protection against NAFLD progression in humans.

According to Yen, this is the first detailed study that looks at the mechanism of caffeine action on lipids in the liver. As the results have proven to be very interesting, it surely won’t be the last. Coffee and tea consumption is commonplace in today’s society. The notion that they might be therapeutic, especially given their negative reputation and reputed health effects, is particularly enlightening.

The research team believes this research could lead to the development of caffeine-like drugs, which would not have the typical side effects associated with caffeine, but would retain its therapeutic effect on the liver. This could serve as a starting point for future studies looking into the full benefits of caffeine and related therapeutics in humans.

The study will be published in the journal Hepatology in the September issue.

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