Coffee may protect against gallstones

In a treat to coffee lovers, researchers have found that drinking coffee may help in reducing the risk of developing gallstones.

“We have tested the hypothesis that high coffee intake causally protects against symptomatic gallstone disease,” said researchers. According to the researchers among 104,493 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. Drinking one extra cup of coffee per day was associated with three per cent lower risk, the study said. Gallstones are generally made up of cholesterol and bilirubin, a pigment which occurs when red blood cells break down.

Coffee may protect against gallstonesThe blobs are more common in those with obesity, and can cause pain in the upper right abdomen by leading to a build-up of bile in the gallbladder. Surgery is usually needed to treat the condition. Coffee could be one tool to prevent the painful condition

Also, individuals with certain genetic variants that have been linked to increased coffee consumption had a lower risk of gallstones. The researchers also highlighted several mechanisms by which coffee consumption might help to prevent gallstones from forming.  The authors wrote: “In both observational and genetic analyses, high coffee intake was associated with low risk of symptomatic GSD [symptomatic gallstone disease] in the general population. These results suggest that high coffee intake is likely to causally protect against symptomatic GSD.”

As the study was observational, it was not clear why coffee appears to impact the risk. But the authors suggested it could be down to a number of reasons, including the body using bile to excrete caffeine. This in turn could lower cholesterol levels in the bile by increasing flow of the substance.