Are you diabetic, overweight and have fatty liver? Study shows how coffee can help

A new study shows that coffee can control fatty liver. But coffee-drinking should be moderate and can only complement the main therapy required to address the root cause of liver inflammation, says Dr Gaurav Gupta, Senior Consultant and Chief Surgeon of Liver Transplant and Hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) surgery at Fortis Hospital, Mumbai.

Can a bit of coffee-drinking lower the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in overweight adults with Type 2 diabetes? A new study from the University of Coimbra, and published in the journal Nutrients, discovered that caffeine, polyphenols and other natural compounds contained in coffee could do so. Dr Gaurav Gupta, Senior Consultant and Chief Surgeon of Liver Transplant and Hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) surgery at Fortis Hospital, Mumbai, decodes the study and says that coffee should be had in moderation in such cases and can be used only as a complementary dietary intervention.

What is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is where the patient does not consume alcohol but he/she still ends up with fatty liver. NAFLD is a spectrum of diseases ranging from simple fatty liver to hepatitis to liver cirrhosis. The main causes are diabetes, hypertension, being overweight or obesity, high cholesterol levels and hypothyroidism.

Why are diabetic patients detected with fatty liver?

Patients with diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes, have insulin resistance leading to high blood sugar. Diabetes may be associated with other lifestyle diseases such as high cholesterol and hypertension. All these diseases lead to fat deposits in the liver, which cause the condition called fatty liver. This can progress to causing inflammation of the liver, which is called hepatitis, ultimately leading to liver damage and liver cirrhosis.

What components in coffee can help to control diabetes?

Coffee helps in preventing damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals resulting in oxidative stress is the main mechanism leading to inflammation or liver damage in patients with diabetes. It’s the same mechanism by which fresh green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits and multivitamins protect our liver from diabetes or high cholesterol.

The study has suggested that the coffee component, including polyphenols, reduces oxidative stress in the liver, in turn reducing the risk of fibrosis as well as improving glucose homeostasis. What does it mean in terms of body health and weight?

Oxidative damage or free oxygen radical damage occurs whenever there is fat deposited in the liver. This deposition of fat in the liver cells can cause liver inflammation. So, all these compounds which are present in coffee, green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits and multivitamins, work on the same principles. They decrease this oxidative stress or free oxygen radical damage, which ultimately helps us in preventing fibrosis or cirrhosis. But once fibrosis or cirrhosis occurs, it cannot be reversed with coffee, green leafy vegetables, or fresh fruit.

If you want to prevent the fatty liver, you must do it through taking measures against its root cause. Consuming coffee, milk, vegetables, or fresh fruit can be complementary actions, but the main treatment still remains the necessary modification in lifestyle like adequate exercise, a good and nutritious diet, controlling sugar and cholesterol levels and controlling blood pressure. But consumption of a moderate amount of coffee can complement and help us in preventing liver inflammation.