A team of researchers suggest that increased coffee intake may reduce fatty liver in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

And here you thought it was just delicious.

Worldwide, 70 percent of people diagnosed with diabetes and obesity have  non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the major cause of fatty liver not due to excessive alcohol consumption. It is estimated that 30 percent of adults in the United States have this condition, and the authors in Singapore say its prevalence is rising there.

There are no effective treatments for
non-alcoholic fatty liver diseas
except diet and exercise. 

Using cell culture and mouse models, the study led by Paul Yen, M.D., associate professor and research fellow, and Rohit Sinha, Ph.D of the Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School's Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disorders Program in Singapore, observed that caffeine stimulates the metabolization of lipids stored in liver cells and decreased the fatty liver of mice that were fed a high-fat diet.

These findings suggest that consuming the equivalent caffeine intake of four cups of coffee a day may be beneficial in preventing and protecting against the progression of NAFLD in humans.

Or tea. But coffee is the Official Drink of Science.

Study leader Paul Yen, M.D., associate professor and research fellow at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. Credit: Duke-NUS

"This is the first detailed study of the mechanism for caffeine action on lipids in liver and the results are very interesting," Yen said. "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."

The team said 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. It could serve as a starting point for studies on the full benefits of caffeine and related therapeutics in humans.

Citation:  Rohit Anthony Sinha, Benjamin L. Farah, Brijesh K. Singh, Monowarul Mobin Siddique, Ying Li, Yajun Wu, Olga R. Ilkayeva, Jessica Gooding, Jianhong Ching, Jin Zhou, Laura Martinez, Sherwin Xie, Boon-Huat Bay, Scott A. Summers, Christopher B. Newgard and Paul M. Yen, 'Caffeine stimulates hepatic lipid metabolism via autophagy-lysosomal pathway', Hepatology September 2013 DOI: 10.1002/hep.26667