How coffee protects against gallstone problems


Life in the civilized world is associated with an incredible number of benefits. This is one side of the coin. But the other is characterized by a health-damaging lifestyle. Industrially processed food, a life of stress and little exercise, these factors combine to promote the obesity of mankind. It is becoming a major cause of disease and death.

Improper lifestyle, age and especially a diet high in cholesterol, is a typical cause of not only obesity but also gallstones. These can then become an unpleasant and very painful problem - gallbladder colic.


Gallstones form inside us, in our gallbladder. This organ is located under the liver and is connected to it. The gallbladder usually has the task of storing the bile formed in the liver.

Bile is made by our body for the process of digestion. From the gallbladder, it passes through the bile duct to the small intestine where activates digestive enzymes for the absorption of fats and vitamins soluble in them. The main component of bile is cholesterol and the hormone cholecystokinin controls when bile will need to be secreted into the intestines.


Movement increases the excretion of bile into the intestines from the liver and gallbladder. A varied diet rich in fibre also contributes to this. This prev ents theaccumulation of bile, either in the bile duct or directly in the gallbladder, which could lead to gallstones.

When we sleep, our gallbladder sleeps. Therefore, if we enjoy a heavy and bulky meal before going to bed, the insufficient amount of bile will not only affect the proper digestion of such a dinner. In a sleeping gallbladder, bile only accumulates, which is not sent further for digestion and thus becomes the most common reason for gallstones.


There aretwo types of gallstones - pigment and cholesteric. Pigment gallstones are not as common as cholesteric gallstones. They are formed by bilirubin and calcium due to liver disease.

Cholesterol gallstones are caused by, for example, diabetes,in addition to an unhealthy lifestyle. A significantly higher risk of cholesterol gallstones is associated with thehormones estrogen and progesterone, so women and especially those over 40 are at greater risk in this regard.In our country, up to 40% of women over 40 suffer from this problem.


Gallstones are formed continuously and during our lifetime, without realizing it, we excrete them out of the body in the stool. The problem arises whenstones of larger sizeform .Such stones no longer manage to pass through the bile duct into the intestine.

At such times,painful bouts of gallbladder colicoccur , which can last for several hours. The gallbladder and its pathways, through which the large stone penetrates, become damaged and react by contracting. If the stone is too large, it can clog the bile duct, causing gallbladder infection, jaundice and even gallbladder cancer.


In milder cases of gallbladder colic, a diet restricting fatty foods and drinking herbal teawill help . In severe condition, the disease cannot be treated without surgical intervention, where the stones are removed from the body during surgery .

The prevention of these gallstone problems, according to astudy conducted by scientists at the University of Copenhagen, isdrinking coffee in addition to a healthy lifestyle. They included 114,200 people in their research and examined both the effect of coffee consumption on the risk of gallstone disease, as well as two specific types of genes, their effect on coffee drinking and the risk of the disease.


Intake of one cup of coffee a day was associated with a 3% lower risk of the disease. Consuming an additional cup of coffee per day reduced this disease risk by up to 11%. The subjects were also examined for their genetic predisposition with respect to caffeine metabolism and risk of gallstone disease.

In fast coffee metabolisers, i.e. people with the genotype with the CYP1A2*1A allele, their ability to process caffeine well and therefore drinking more coffee also reduced their risk of gallstones. As a result, high coffee intake was shown to be a likely protector against gallstone disease (1).


Theprotective effect on the gallbladder is mainly exerted byblack coffee. The caffeine in it has stimulating effects not only for our brain but also for other organs in our body. Itpromotes digestion and stimulates the secretion of bile. This promotes the patency of the bile duct and the excretion of any small stones in the stool.

Conversely, a non-supportive effect with regard to the prevention of gallstones is possible when coffee is consumed with milk or cream. This is because milk, cream or whipped cream contains a lot of fat, which again negatively affects gallbladder function and encourages the formation of stones.


  1. Nordestgaard, AT, Stender, S, Nordestgaard, BG, Tybjærg-Hansen, A (Rigshospitalet; Herlev and Gentofte Hospital; Frederiksberg and Bispebjerg Hospital; University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark). Coffee intake protects against symptomatic gallstone disease in the general population: a Mendelian randomization study. J Intern Med 2020; 287: 42- 53.

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