Advanced hepatitis C patients with chronic liver disease may benefit from drinking coffee during treatment, according to a new study published in the June 2011 issue of Gastroenterology. Patients who received pegylated interferon plus ribavirin treatment and who drank three or more cups of coffee per day were two times more likely to respond to treatment, compared with those who didn't drink coffee.

“Coffee intake has been associated with a lower level of liver enzymes, reduced progression of chronic liver disease and reduced incidence of liver cancer,” said Neal Freedman, PhD, MPH, of the National Cancer Institute and lead author of this study. “Although we observed an independent association between coffee intake and virologic response to treatment, this association needs replication in other studies.”
Among those who didn't drink coffee in the study, 46 percent had an early virologic response; 26 percent had undetectable HCV levels at week 20; 22 percent had undetectable virus at week 48; and 11 percent had a sustained virologic response (SVR). In contrast, the corresponding proportions for those who drank three or more cups of coffee per day were 73 percent, 52 percent, 49 percent and 26 percent, respectively.

Because patients in this particular study had previously failed interferon therapy, it is not clear whether the results can be generalized to other patient populations. Future studies among patients with less advanced disease, those who are first-time treatment takers, or who are being treated with newer antiviral agents are needed.