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Coffee for Liver Health and Depression

 

Coffee has been a beloved beverage by more than one great intellectual. Bach would drink it by the gallon to supercharge his formidable compositional powers; Balzac would brew gallons of it to churn out literary masterpieces like Happy Meals; Emanuel Swedenborg, the great mystic and scientist, would indulge heavily in the drink to sustain his various inquiries into mechanics, geology, physics, and theology. More recently coffee has been found to have a number of health benefits along with its well-known knack for innervating the nerves. The evidence, which we will review here, is mixed in some areas, but for the most part tips the scales in favor of moderate coffee consumption for a longer and better life.

Like many other plant products, coffee beans contain thousands of bioactive compounds. Broadly speaking, the purported benefits of these molecules  include the attenuation of inflammation and oxidative stress, stimulation of the CNS (yeah, you knew that already), and the prevention of carcinogenesis. It has been observed that there is an inverse relationship between liver cirrhosis and coffee consumption, suggesting that one or more of them have hepatoprotective properties (Higdon, 2006). It has also been shown to act as preventative against liver fibrosis, HCC, and abnormal liver function (Freedman, 2009). For patients with advanced hepatitis C regular coffee consumption is associated with slower disease progression. Researchers are careful to note that other caffeinated beverages, like energy drinks, do not exhibit these same positive effects on the liver (Corrao, 2001).

Depression is public health issue that has been rightly receiving more attention in recent years. This epidemic inflicts tremendous suffering upon hundreds of millions of people across the global and, at some point, is bound to affect almost everyone. A study of 50,000 women revealed that at least one cup of coffee a week reduced their risk of depression by 15% and two to three cups a day slashed it by 20 (Ruusunen, 2010).  It was found moderate coffee drinkers, both men and women, were 45% less likely to commit suicide and heavy drinkers were 53% less likely. By facilitating the production of BDNF, among other things, coffee can literally save a person’s life.

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