Three or more cups of coffee per day along with the standard treatment for advanced hepatitis C disease might be the key to greater success with the treatment, reported a new study in Gastroenterology, the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association.
As a June 7, 2011, news release from the AGA explained, patients in the study were taking the standard peginterferon and ribavirin for chronic liver disease and at the same time were asked to increase daily coffee consumption to three or more cups. Interestingly, these patients were two times more likely to respond to treatment than non-coffee drinkers.
“Coffee intake has been associated with a lower level of liver enzymes, reduced progression of chronic liver disease and reduced incidence of liver cancer,” said Neal Freedman, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute and lead author of the new study. He added that the correlation between coffee and better outcomes in fighting the hepatitis C virus (HCV) needed to be replicated in other studies with different kinds of liver disease patients.
This was the first time that researchers looked directly at a possible link between coffee consumption and response to anti-HCV treatment. A study in 2007 found that coffee drinking reduced the risk of liver cancer, and a 2009 study suggested that coffee consumption slowed the progression of liver disease in those with chronic hepatitis C disease.
Add to that other recent reports of the various health benefits of coffee and you can see why researchers want to continue to look at the salutary effects of a java habit.
While peginterferon and ribavirin resolve chronic hepatitis C in about half of patients, it is yet to be studied whether coffee drinking can help those being treated with two newer drugs on the market, telaprevir and boceprevir.
A hepatitis C infection often comes about through contact with contaminated blood, for instance, in the sharing of needles during illegal drug use. Sometimes the virus can lie dormant for years without showing symptoms. If it begins to cause liver problems it needs to be treated with an antiviral medication.