Dr. Craig Lammert, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic, recently completed a study showing that drinking coffee can decrease the risk of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare, but very serious, autoimmune disease that affects the liver. In people with PSC, the bile ducts---the tubes that carry liquid bile from the liver to the intestines--- become inflamed and hardened. Eventually, patients develop cirrhosis of the liver and often cancer. Most patients are diagnosed between 20 and 30, and die within 25 year, unless they have a liver transplant.
This study looked at the impact of coffee drinking not only on PSC, but also on primary biliary cirrhosis. Coffee drinking had no impact on PBC, but a noteworthy impact on PSC. Healthy controls were more likely to drink coffee than the patients with liver disease---and they also drank more coffee overall. When it came to not drinking coffee at all, 13% of the healthy controls were non-coffee-drinkers, compared with 21% of PSC patients. PSC coffee drinkers drank an average of 50 cups per month, compared with an average 78 cups per month among healthy-control coffee drinkers. When researchers considered personal history, they found that the subjects with PSC had spent only 50% of their lives “actively drinking coffee” compared with healthy coffee drinkers, who had been actively drinking coffee for 67% of their lives.
The takeaway message is pretty consistent with other studies that we’ve been seeing about coffee. Drinking more coffee over a longer period of time has positive effect on certain aspects of our health---though we are not exactly 100% sure why this is true. Certainly the antioxidants and chlorogenic acids help, but what we saw in this study was a truly anti-inflammatory effect that has far-reaching implications for the link between coffee and good health.
Now for more good news: It’s warming up! That means trips to the beach and the pool, sundresses and shorts, late nights at the museums and sipping iced coffee on the patio. Note that conventional wisdom has recently changed: Coffee counts as a liquid, so consider yourself hydrated when you’re sipping a cup of Pike Place. And if you’re watching calories, remember to use skim milk whenever possible and not too much sugar. Finally, if it’s sunny out, take care to wear sunscreen and sunglasses and sit under an umbrella while enjoying your iced latte. Enjoy!