The new study data, presented at the Digestive Disease Week 2013 conference in the USA, suggests that coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing a rare autoimmune liver disease known as primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC).
"While rare, PSC has extremely detrimental effects," said study author Dr Craig Lammert, of the Mayo Clinic, USA. "We're always looking for ways to mitigate risk, and our first-time finding points to a novel environmental factor that also might help us to determine the cause of this and other devastating autoimmune diseases."
The research examined a large group of U.S. patients with PSC and primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) and a group of healthy patients. Data showed that coffee consumption was associated with reduced risk of PSC, but not PBC.
PSC patients were much likelier not to consume coffee than healthy patients were. The PSC patients also spent nearly 20 percent less of their time regularly drinking coffee than the control.
Konstantinos Lazaridis, who also worked on the research, said that the group's findings suggest that PSC and PBC differ more than originally thought: "Moving forward, we can look at what this finding might tell us about the causes of these diseases and how to better treat them."