FRIDAY, Oct. 23, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Coffee slows the progression of advanced liver disease in people with chronic hepatitis C, new research finds.
The study included 766 patients infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) who were asked to report their intake of coffee, green tea and black tea. The patients were seen every three months during the nearly four-year study, and liver biopsies were taken at 18 months and 3.5 years to determine the progression of liver disease.
Patients who drank three or more cups of coffee per day were 53 percent less likely to have liver disease progression than those who didn't drink coffee. Green and black tea didn't appear to have an effect, but tea consumption was low among the study participants, the researchers noted in the report published in the November issue of the journal Hepatology.
"This study is the first to address the association between liver disease progression related to hepatitis C and coffee intake," study leader Neal Freedman, of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, said in a news release from the journal's publisher.
"Given the large number of people affected by HCV, it is important to identify modifiable risk factors associated with the progression of liver disease," Freedman added. "Although we cannot rule out a possible role for other factors that go along with drinking coffee, results from our study suggest that patients with high coffee intake had a lower risk of disease progression."
The study authors cautioned that the findings about coffee's benefits shouldn't be generalized to healthy people.
HCV infects about 2.2 percent of the worldwide population, including more than 3 million Americans. The virus is the leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States and is responsible for 8,000 to 10,000 deaths in the country each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about hepatitis C.