A wealth of studies have hailed coffee for its potential health benefits, but for patients infected with both HIV and hepatitis C virus, the rewards could be even greater; a new study suggests that drinking at least three cups of coffee per day could halve their risk of all-cause mortality.

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Researchers say that a higher coffee intake could lower the risk of all-cause death for patients with HIV-HCV co-infection.

The researchers also found that quitting smoking further boosted survival for these patients, even after the clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Lead investigator Dominique Salmon-Céron, Ph.D. – of the Service des Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales, Hôpital Cochin, and Université Paris Descartes in France – and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of Hepatology.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 25 percent of people in the United States living with HIV are also infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), which is a bloodborne virus capable of causing chronic liver disease. Thankfully, there are antiviral treatments that can eradicate HCV.

“However,” says Dr. Salmon-Céron, “even when cured of HCV, patients co-infected with HIV have a higher risk of death with respect to the general population, due to an accelerated aging process that may result from cancer, complications related to diabetes and to liver disease, and from cardiovascular events.”

The new study from Dr. Salmon-Céron and team suggests that coffee – a beverage enjoyed by more than half of adults in the U.S. every day – may help to reduce this risk of death.

Coffee contains compounds, such as polyphenols, that can help to reduce inflammation, and studies have shown that the beverage can help to protect liver health.

What is more, previous research has linked coffee consumption with reduced mortality. But Dr. Salmon-Céron and colleagues note that researchers have not investigated how coffee intake affects the mortality risk of people co-infected with HIV and HCV – until now.

For their study, the researchers analyzed the data of 1,028 adults who were enrolled in the ANRS CO13-HEPAVIH cohort, which is an ongoing nationwide study of patients in France who have HIV-HCV co-infection.

As part of the study, subjects completed annual questionnaires, from which the team gathered health and lifestyle data.

Over a median 5 years of follow-up, 77 of the study participants passed away. HCV-related diseases, cancers unrelated to AIDS and HCV, and AIDS were the leading causes of death.

At study baseline, around 26.6 percent of participants reported drinking at least three cups of coffee every day.

Analysis of the data revealed that the risk of death from all causes was reduced by 80 percent for participants whose HCV was eradicated, and not smoking reduced this death risk even further.

But even after accounting for HCV eradication, the team found that drinking at least three cups of coffee daily was associated with a 50 percent reduction in all-cause mortality risk.

This finding also remained after accounting for other factors associated with HIV and HCV, as well as sociobehavioral factors, such as not smoking and having a long-term partner.

Commenting on their findings, the authors write:

This study shows that elevated coffee consumption (≥3 cups/day) halves all-cause mortality risk in patients co-infected with HIV-HCV.”

Dr. Salmon-Céron and colleagues say that the findings highlight the importance of positive lifestyle and behavioral changes in patients with HIV-HCV co-infection, even after the clearance of HCV infection.

“I think we need to better monitor coffee consumption,” explains Dr. Salmon-Céron, “together with other behaviors, such as alcohol use, smoking, physical activity, and to propose interventions to our patients which facilitate healthy behaviors even after HCV clearance.”

“We also suggest that those patients who cannot tolerate a high intake of caffeine should consider drinking a few cups of decaffeinated coffee a day,” she adds.

The team concludes that the benefits of coffee extracts and other anti-inflammatory compounds should be investigated in patients co-infected with HIV and HCV.