STAT Medical News: Coffee May Ward Off Liver Damage

COFFEE WARDS OFF LIVER DAMAGE Drinking coffee may help protect against developing the liver disease cirrhosis, researchers from Kaiser Permanente find. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, examined data on more than 125,000 people who filled out questionnaires about their lifestyle, including their drinking habits. Nearly 200 people went on to develop cirrhosis, but for every cup of coffee people drank per day, they were 22 percent less likely to develop the disease. Since there was no relationship between tea-drinking and cirrhosis, researchers believe it's not the caffeine that confers the benefit.

MEDITATION MAY HELP HEARTS Four months of transcendental meditation may create small improvements in blood pressure and insulin resistance in elderly people with heart disease, finds a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles compared 52 elderly patients assigned to meditation to 51 patients assigned to receive general health education. Afterward, the people who practiced meditation had slight improvements in their blood pressure as well as lowered insulin levels in their blood. However, the study cannot be considered conclusive because there were differences between the two groups of patients beforehand -- the meditation group started with more insulin, less depression and less anger than the control group. More research is needed.

MORE PROZAC & LESS SUICIDE Decreased U.S. suicide rates are associated with increased Prozac (fluoxetine) prescriptions, finds a study published in Public Library of Science Medicine. Researchers from UCLA show that annual rates of suicide in the United States fell gradually after Prozac's introduction in 1998. From 1960 to 1988, rates of suicide were about 13 to 14 people per 100,000. After the advent of Prozac, rates fell to a low of about 10 per 100,000. The authors suggest Prozac might have saved 33,600 lives since its invention.

STAT is a brief look at the latest medical research and is compiled by Joanna Schaffhausen, who holds a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience. She works in the ABC News Medical Unit, evaluating medical studies, abstracts and news releases.

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