Women who are keen coffee drinkers may be lowering their risk of developing gallstones, report researchers in the recent issue of Gastroenterology.
The researchers found that women who drank at least four cups of coffee a day were around 25 per cent less likely to need surgery for gallstones than non-drinkers were. Decaffeinated coffee however did not have the same effect.
The researchers from Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, write that previous studies have shown that coffee affects several hepatobiliary processes that are involved in cholesterol lithogenesis. They have previously shown coffee drinking to lower the risk of gallstone disease in men.
In a study on more than 80,000 women, aged 34-59 years, who had no history of gallstone disease, the researchers compiled details on coffee consumption and cholecystectomy from questionnaires.
After a period of 20 years, 7,811 women reported a cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder). Compared with women who consistently reported consuming no caffeinated coffee, the relative risks of this surgery were lower, and the more coffee women consumed, the lower their risk.
However they also found that women who drank caffeinated soft drinks appeared to have a higher risk of gallbladder surgery than those who did not.
"These data suggest that consumption of caffeinated coffee may play a role in the prevention of symptomatic gallstone disease in women," concluded the authors.
While the research does not provide conclusive evidence of caffeine's role on gallbladder health, it seems to suggest that those coffee drinkers among us need not abstain in order to protect for gallstones.