Drinking coffee may help reduce the risk of developing gallstones, researchers report.
Gallstones, usually made of cholesterol, are small stones which form in the gallbladder. Mostly, they do not cause any symptoms and don't need to be treated, however, if a gallstone becomes trapped, it can trigger intense abdominal pain or other complications.
And in new research led by a team at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, it was found that among 104,490 individuals, those who drank more than six cups of coffee per day had a 23 per cent lower risk of developing symptomatic gallstones compared with individuals who did not drink coffee.
Meanwhile, drinking one extra cup of coffee per day was associated with a three per cent lower risk and individuals with certain genetic variants that have been linked to increased coffee consumption had a lower risk of gallstones.
"A coffee-induced increase in bile acid production could reduce the risk of cholesterol gallstones," commented lead researcher Ask Tybjaerg Nordestgaard. "Moreover, coffee has been shown to induce UGT1A1, the enzyme responsible for conjugation of bilirubin. Elevated levels of unconjugated bilirubin in bile is a causal risk factor for gallstone formation."
Although the study only uncovered correlations, the authors emphasised several mechanisms by which coffee consumption might prevent gallstones.
In recent years, coffee has been linked to a number of health benefits and previous studies suggest the drink has the potential to prevent type 2 diabetes, increase fat loss, and lower the risk of diseases, amongst other conditions.
Full results have been published in the Journal of Internal Medicine.