Heavy coffee consumption may be associated with a reduced risk for pancreatitis, according to a study published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences.

For this meta-analysis, researchers searched for case-control, cross-sectional, or cohort studies that included keywords such as “coffee”, “caffeine”, and “pancreatitis” and compared the risk of pancreatitis based on coffee consumption. Four studies (N=351,137) met the criteria for inclusion and were used for the analysis. Heavy consumption of coffee was defined as either ≥3 cups/day or 4 cups/day, depending on the study.

Results showed a significantly decreased risk of pancreatitis in individuals who were considered heavy coffee-drinkers vs those who were not (22% reduction; pooled risk ratio [RR] 0.78; 95% CI 0.67-0.91). A subgroup analysis of patients with acute pancreatitis also revealed similar findings. Heavy coffee-drinkers had a significantly reduced risk of acute pancreatitis (20% reduction; pooled RR 0.80; 95% CI 0.63-1.00) compared with not heavy coffee-drinkers.

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The authors postulate that the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of caffeine may play a role in the protective effect of coffee on pancreatitis risk. In addition, as coffee consumption has been linked to a lower prevalence of diabetes and obesity, it may also indirectly decrease pancreatitis risk as both of these conditions are considered risk factors for pancreatitis.

While the studies included for this meta-analysis were considered high quality and had insignificant heterogeneity, the authors note that “the study has some limitations and the results should be interpreted with caution,” adding that “further investigations are still required to determine causality and potential clinical application.”

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