Is Coffee Bad for Your Liver?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 06/10/2024

Coffee is the most popular caffeinated beverage consumed by approximately 80 percent of Americans, but is coffee bad for your liver?


No, coffee isn’t bad for your liver if enjoyed moderately. While too much coffee can have side effects, black coffee has various hepatoprotective properties that may reduce liver cell damage and lower the risk of liver disease. 


Discover the effects of coffee on liver health and how much coffee is safe to drink.


Coffee liver concept

Is coffee harmful to your liver?

Coffee isn’t bad for your liver, especially compared to other caffeinated drinks, such as sports or energy drinks. 

Black coffee is a rich source of polyphenols. These potent antioxidant compounds can support liver health and are linked to a decreased risk of liver disease. 

However, drinking coffee in excess can lead to adverse health effects. It can take up to six hours for the body to metabolize and eliminate a single eight-ounce cup of coffee. Consuming multiple cups of coffee daily can lead to an increased risk of insomnia, anxiety, or jitteriness.

Watch the video below to learn more about the effects of coffee on liver health.

Is Coffee Bad For Liver?

Benefits of coffee for liver health

The liver is responsible for detoxification, metabolism, and hormone balance. Reduced liver function is often caused by poor dietary and lifestyle habits, which can lead to poor detoxification processes, metabolic imbalances, and hormonal issues.

A nutrient-dense diet can support liver health, and the consumption of black coffee has been linked to improved liver cell function and a lower risk of liver disease.

Here are five benefits of coffee for liver health.

1. Anti-cancer effects

Coffee contains polyphenols and several anti-inflammatory compounds, including cafestol, kahweol, and chlorogenic acids, which may lower the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, also known as liver cancer. 

A study published in Gastroenterology investigated the link between coffee and liver disease and concluded, “Consumption of two cups of coffee per day was associated with a 43 percent reduced risk of liver cancer.”

Coffee may also help prevent the development of other cancers, including breast, rectal, and colon cancer.

2. Lower risk of hepatitis infections 

Research shows that chlorogenic acids in coffee have antiviral properties on various viral hepatitis strains, including hepatitis B and C. It may also inhibit the hepatitis C virus from replicating in the body. 

A study published in Digestive and Liver Disease also found that coffee consumption helps reduce oxidative damage in chronic hepatitis C patients, which is linked to better long-term health outcomes.  


Liver illustration

3. Stimulates bile production 

Caffeine is eliminated through bile, a digestive fluid produced by the liver. Coffee consumption has been found to increase bile production, which promotes digestive health and nutrient absorption. 

“Coffee contains certain phytonutrients that stimulate the production and flow of bile,” explains Dr. Berg. “It can also help thin bile, which helps prevent sluggish gallbladder function and gallstones.”

Optimal bile flow can reduce the risk of bile backing up into the liver. This can lead to inflammation of liver cells and may contribute to the development of liver disease and, in extreme cases, even liver failure.  

4. Helps fight cirrhosis 

Cirrhosis is characterized by liver scarring and reduced liver function and typically results from hepatitis or chronic alcohol abuse. 

Fibrosis is the accumulation of fibrous proteins in the liver and is the leading cause of liver scarring and cirrhosis.

Interestingly, research shows that coffee drinkers are less likely to develop cirrhosis than non-coffee drinkers. A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hepatology found that drinking coffee lowers various risk factors associated with chronic liver disease, including fibrosis.

5. May reduce the risk of fatty liver disease

Regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and help slow the progression of those already affected. 

Research published in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology found that those who drank coffee had a significantly lower risk of developing NAFLD than those who didn’t. 

Additionally, coffee consumption decreased the risk of fibrosis in those diagnosed with NAFLD.  


Woman with anxiety

Downsides of drinking coffee

Despite coffee’s many beneficial health benefits, drinking multiple cups daily can produce various side effects.  

Here are four downsides of drinking coffee.

1. Anxiety

Caffeine intake stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, widely known as the fight-or-flight mechanism

This is the body’s natural response to danger, which increases the release of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, leading to anxiety, nervousness, and jitteriness.  

2. Insomnia

Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that promotes sleepiness. Caffeinated coffee suppresses the adenosine receptor and produces a feeling of awakeness, which explains why coffee throughout the day can interfere with sleep. 


Vitamin B concept

3. Nutritional deficiencies 

Coffee has a diuretic effect, which causes the kidneys to produce more urine. 

Too much coffee can lead to excess fluid loss, which depletes water-soluble vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium.

4. Chemical residues

Conventional coffee plants are typically sprayed with glyphosate, an herbicide widely used to control weeds. 

Chemical residue from glyphosate and pesticides is often found in commercial ground coffee products. Exposure to herbicides and pesticides like glyphosate is associated with an increased risk of cancer and reproductive issues. 

To minimize exposure to harmful pesticides, opting for organic coffee whenever possible is recommended. 


Woman drinking a latte

How much coffee should you have?

According to dietary guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 400 milligrams of daily caffeine intake is considered safe for most healthy adults. This equates to about four to five eight-ounce cups of coffee.  

While some individuals can tolerate more coffee, others can experience side effects such as anxiety and insomnia after drinking only two cups a day.

In addition, the risk of headaches and migraines appears to double after three cups of coffee, and it’s best to listen to your body and adjust your caffeine intake accordingly.

Decaffeinated coffee is a popular alternative for coffee drinkers who enjoy drinking coffee for its flavor without caffeine side effects. However, certain decaffeination processes involve the use of chemicals, increasing potential health risks associated with chemical residues.


Coffee cup and coffee beans

Key takeaways

Regular coffee consumption is a much-beloved habit for many, but is coffee bad for your liver? 

Coffee isn’t bad for your liver in moderate amounts. In fact, coffee contains various nutrients that can help reduce the risk of liver disease, including liver cancer, chronic hepatitis B and C infection, and fatty liver disease. 

However, excessive coffee intake can lead to adverse effects, including anxiety and insomnia, while potentially contributing to nutrient deficiencies.


FAQ

1. Can drinking coffee harm your liver?

No, moderate coffee consumption isn’t bad for your liver. 

A daily cup of coffee has been linked to various health benefits, including a lower risk of fatty liver disease and liver cancer. 

2. How does coffee affect the liver?

Coffee contains many beneficial compounds, including polyphenols, that promote healthy liver cell function and lower the risk of liver damage and disease. 

Coffee has also been shown to lower high liver enzyme levels associated with hepatitis B, cirrhosis, and other chronic liver diseases. 

3. Can you have coffee if you have a fatty liver?

Yes, you can drink coffee with both nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and liver disease linked to significant alcohol consumption. 

Coffee contains phytonutrients that support liver cell function, which is linked to improved clearance of liver fat and enhanced liver function. 

4. Is coffee good for your liver and kidneys?

Yes, moderate coffee consumption can benefit liver and kidney function. 

Coffee is associated with improved liver function and a lower liver cancer risk, and moderate coffee consumption may help prevent kidney stones.


Sources

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17484871/ 

  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1590865812004240 

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4862107/ 

  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27824642/ 

  5. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files

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