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Drinking Coffee and Preventing Gallstones

Your gallbladder stores bile, the liquid produced by the liver to digest fats. Gallstones, hard masses of cholesterol and protein, are the most common digestive-related cause of hospitalization in the United States, with symptomatic gallstone disease affecting more than 20 million Americans annually.

A 10-year study (1986-1996) examined the possibility that coffee could reduce the risk of gallstone formation. The study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, gathered data from more than 45,000 men and found a decreased risk of symptomatic gallstone disease associated with higher intake of regular (caffeinated) coffee. Subjects who drank no coffee or only one cup per day had a higher risk compared with those who drank four or more cups per day.

Does that mean you should run down to your local coffee shop and start chugging the 64-ounce café mochas? Of course not. As the authors of the study note, ³clinical recommendations on coffee consumption should be based on patients¹ individual health risks and benefits.² In other words, ask your doctor for more information.


Letzmann MF, Willett WC, Rimm EB, et al. A prospective study of coffee consumption and the risk of symptomatic gallstone disease in men. Journal of the American Medical Association, June 9, 1999: Vol. 281, No. 22, pp2106-2112.

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