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Cholesterol | Coffee May Lower Risk of Gallstones in Women

Coffee May Lower Risk of Gallstones in Women

Women who consume more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee per day may lower their risk of developing symptoms of gallstones, according to a new study in Gastroenterology (2002;123:1823–30). No risk reduction was observed from consumption of other caffeinated products, such as tea, chocolate, or soft drinks, or from use of decaffeinated coffee.

Gallbladder disease affects more than 20 million individuals and results in nearly 800,000 gallbladder removals in the United States each year. Gallstones are formed when cholesterol and other substances aggregate into a hard mass within the gallbladder. As the size and number of gallstones increases, the gallbladder becomes inflamed. Symptoms of gallstones include intermittent pain on the right upper portion of the abdomen, heartburn, nausea, vomiting and a sense of abdominal fullness. Many of these symptoms may be brought on or exacerbated by consumption of a fatty meal. Treatment includes medications to dissolve the gallstones, such as ursodiol (Actigall®), or surgical removal of the gallbladder. However, medication is effective only if the gallstones are small, and the stones tend to recur once therapy has stopped.

In this study, 80,898 female nurses between the ages of 34 and 59 years were questioned in 1980 about their dietary habits. Intake of caffeinated coffee was recorded as none, less than 1 cup per day, 2 to 3 cups per day, or more than 4 cups per day. Caffeine intake from other sources, including tea, soft drinks, decaffeinated coffee, and other products was also reported, as well as the type of brewing method.

Women who consumed more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 28% lower risk of having symptom-producing gallstones, compared with those who did not drink coffee. Women who drank 1 to 3 cups of caffeinated coffee per day also had a decreased risk, but to a lesser extent than those with higher coffee consumption. Use of decaffeinated coffee and method of brewing (espresso, instant coffee, filtered) had no impact on risk.

This study shows that consuming coffee may reduce the incidence of symptom-producing gallstones; however, it did not show that coffee reduces gallstone formation, as many people with gallstones do not experience symptoms. Drinking high amounts of coffee may also lead to other health problems. Studies have shown that consuming more than 4 cups of coffee per day may increase the risk of heart disease, make glaucoma worse, and increase the risk of miscarriage during pregnancy. Other conditions such as osteoporosis, anemia, colon cancer, migraine headaches, heartburn, and premenstrual syndrome may also be aggravated by coffee consumption. Use of coffee to prevent symptoms of gallstones should be carefully considered in regards to other health problems that it may cause.

Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.

Copyright © 2003 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of the Healthnotes® content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Healthnotes, Inc. Healthnotes Newswire is for educational or informational purposes only, and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment for any condition. If you have any concerns about your own health, you should always consult with a healthcare professional. Healthnotes, Inc. shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. Healthnotes and the Healthnotes logo are registered trademarks of Healthnotes, Inc.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.

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