When I was about 8 years old, my mom introduced me to coffee. She called it “coffee milk” because it was half coffee and half raw milk. (The milk was raw because that was the only kind we had in Ball Ground, Georgia. We were underprivileged–lucky us.)
One cup and I was hooked–and I’ve never looked back. That was about 70 years ago. I now drink three mugs a day. That’s about six of those sissy cups–two mugs in the morning and one mug after my afternoon nap. The milk in it is still raw, and I add no sugar.
I recently read a report from Jenny Thompson of the Health Sciences Institute that reminded me of how lucky I was to grow up without the nutritional advice of HealthGov (i.e., the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the FDA, and the EPA).
This time, the research shows that drinking coffee can help prevent liver cancer–which could explain why coffee-loving Americans have such a low rate. In the U.S., where, as Jenny so colorfully put it, “you can’t throw an iPhone without hitting a Starbucks,” there is a low incidence of liver cancer.
Drink up to protect your liver
In my many years of practice, I never saw a case of primary liver cancer. Most cases of liver cancer are metastatic, meaning that the cancer originated in a different organ and then spread to the liver. Even now, there are only 18,500 cases reported yearly. That may sound like a lot, but in a nation the size of the U.S., it’s quite small.
On the flip side, the highest incidence of liver cancer is found in Asia, where coffee consumption is quite low.
A research project from Tohoku University in Japan combined data from two large studies that assessed coffee consumption by more than 60,000 subjects. The results showed that you don’t have to drink gallons of coffee every day to receive its health benefits. In fact, those who only drank an occasional cup of coffee still had a 30 percent lower risk of developing liver cancer than those who didn’t drink any coffee at all. And, as you can probably imagine, those who drank coffee daily had a significantly reduced risk of developing the most common form of primary liver cancer, called hepatocellular cancer, or HCC.
When the team analyzed the results of 10 coffee studies involving more than 2,200 patients with liver cancer, this is what they found:
- Risk of HCC was reduced by more than 45 percent on average
- Subjects who drank the most coffee reduced HCC risk by 55 percent
- Moderate coffee drinkers lowered their HCC risk by 30 percent
- Adding one additional cup of coffee per day reduced HCC risk by more than 20 percent
Having said all this, you should know that I’m not a fan of meta-analysis. Bundling a bunch of studies together isn’t much different than putting them in a mixer, taking trends perceived from the mix, and then drawing conclusions from them concerning cause and effect. There are just too many variables.
What were the racial differences in the studies? What kind of coffee was used? How was the coffee grown? Was it with or without pesticides? Was the soil irrigated? If so, what type of water was utilized? How was it roasted at the farm? How was it cooked in the family kitchen? Did the coffee contain cream and/or sugar?
But this is a start, and it certainly deserves long-term investigation.
Brewed to healthy perfection
On a side note, my wife Mely and I are attempting to grow coffee on a finca we own in Central America, but we’re still in the experimental stage (meaning we’re armed with lots of enthusiasm and little knowledge). We may not know a lot about growing coffee at this point, but we do know the best and healthiest way to brew it.
As with almost all foods, the less heat used in cooking, the better. That’s the golden rule of nutritious cooking. If you want the most nutritious and best tasting coffee, I recommend cold-brewed coffee. The beans have been roasted when you buy them, which means they already more heat than they need. Someone should invent a method of slow roasting that doesn’t require as much heat. (If there’s one already out there, please let me know.)
To make cold-brewed coffee, get a cold-brew setup. They’re simple and inexpensive and should be available at any specialty coffee shop. Put a pound of ground (preferably fresh ground) coffee into the container and fill it with water within 1/2 inch of the top. Let it soak overnight. Then pull the plug on the bottom and let it drain into the container that comes with the set.
This coffee is highly concentrated, so you might need to dilute it to your taste. Still, this will be the least bitter coffee you’ve ever had. If you drink two cups a day, this should last you a week. It keeps well in the fridge.