Coffee and disorders of other intestinal organs

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Gallbladder

The gallbladder stores bile, a fluid which is released into the small intestine where it emulsifies fats and assists their digestion. Gallstones are deposits that form in the gallbladder and in a minority of cases trigger severe abdominal pain (symptomatic gallstones) which can cause the gallbladder to become inflamed leading to gallbladder disease.

  • Two major prospective cohort studies consistently show an inverse association between coffee consumption and the risk of symptomatic gallstones29,30. Other studies suggest that the effect of coffee may vary depending on the progression of the gallbladder disease.

Coffee and caffeine appear to trigger the contraction of the gallbladder and may prevent small crystals becoming large gallstones early in the disease. However, if large gallstones are already present such contraction of the gallbladder may cause pain. There is some evidence to suggest that coffee exerts its effect through caffeine, but further studies are required to confirm this hypothesis.

Further detailed information is available in the Gallstones section of the Coffee and Health website here.

Liver

Studies looking at the relationship between coffee consumption and risk of liver cancer have found an inverse association.

  • Epidemiological evidence suggests that moderate coffee consumption may help to reduce the risk of liver cancer, and the risk falls as coffee consumption rises18,31,32.
  • In its 2016 review, IARC concluded that evidence showed a consistent and statistically significant inverse association between coffee consumption and liver cancer18.
  • Further epidemiological studies in patients with other liver diseases have all found a positive effect of moderate coffee drinking on limiting disease progression.

Further detailed information is available in the Liver section of the Coffee and Health website here.

Pancreas

The pancreas serves multiple roles in both the digestive and endocrine systems. Pancreatic juice secreted from the pancreas contains enzymes that contribute to the breakdown of fats, carbohydrates and proteins in the GI tract.

  • IARC concluded that coffee consumption is not linked to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer18. The World Cancer Research Fund also reviewed over 50 studies and found no increase in risk of developing pancreatic cancer with coffee consumption33.
  • Further studies have also confirmed the absence of a relationship and in fact some studies suggest that regular coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of pancreatic cancer25,34-37.

Further detailed information is available in the Cancer section of the Coffee and Health website here.

This information is intended for Healthcare professional audiences.
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