Caffeine may contribute to healthy liver for people with fatty liver disease

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th September 2013

Increased caffeine intake may reduce fatty liver in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, according to an international team of researchers led by Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School (Duke-NUS) and the Duke University School of Medicine.

Using cell culture and mouse models, the authors of the study, observed that caffeine stimulated the metabolisation of lipids stored in liver cells and decreased the fatty liver of mice that were fed a high fat diet. The findings suggested that coffee and tea consumption with a caffeine intake equivalent to four cups a day may be beneficial in the prevention and protection against the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in humans.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, an obesity-related condition, is the major cause of fatty liver not due to excessive alcohol consumption. Currently there are no effective treatments for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease except diet and exercise.

The findings of the study, which was led by Paul Yen MD, Associate Professor and Research Fellow, Rohit Sinha PhD of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School’s Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Program in Singapore, will be published in the September 2013 issue of the journal Hepatology.

“This is the first detailed study of the mechanism for caffeine action on lipids in liver and the results are very interesting,” said Dr Yen. “Coffee and tea are so commonly consumed and the notion that they may be therapeutic, especially since they have a reputation for being ‘bad’ for health, is especially enlightening,” he said.

The researchers said they hoped this research could lead to the development of caffeine-like drugs that do not have the usual side effects related to caffeine, but retain its therapeutic effects on the liver. They said the study could serve as a starting point for studies on the full benefits of caffeine and related therapeutics in humans.

Other researchers in the study included Christopher Newgard PhD and Driector of the Sarah W. Stedman Nutrition and Metabolism Centre at the Duke University School of Medicine, where the metabolomics analysis of the data was conducted.

The study was supported by funding from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research; the Ministry of Health; and the Ministry of Education.

Caffeine has become an increasingly contentious substance in recent times. Australian Food News reported last week that the Australian Government had called for submissions on possible changes to the policy guidelines for the regulation of caffeine.

Tea and coffee may help with liver health