The poor neglected liver. People tend to worry about their hearts, their lungs, their stomachs—but the liver gets little TLC, despite being essential for cleaning the blood, storing energy and aiding digestion. Good news: You can show your liver a little love by doing something that’s also immensely enjoyable…drinking coffee.

That’s right—coffee is linked to a reduced risk for liver cancer, the world’s third-most-deadly type of cancer. Here’s the scoop from a recent meta-analysis, including the amount of coffee that seemed to give drinkers the most protection.

Researchers from Italy combined the results from 16 high-quality studies that examined the association between coffee consumption and the most common form of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Together, the studies from around the world included 3,153 cases of HCC. Here’s what the researchers found…

• Coffee drinkers in general had a 40% lower risk for HCC than people who did not drink coffee.

• “High coffee consumption” was linked to a 56% reduction in risk for HCC. The studies varied in how they defined “high coffee consumption,” with most considering high consumption to be three or more cups per day…but in five studies, high consumption meant just one or more cups per day.

• Alcohol consumption, hepatitis and liver disease—known risk factors for liver cancer—did not appreciably modify the apparent benefits of drinking coffee.

The meta-analysis did not differentiate between regular and decaffeinated coffee (though the researchers noted that most data referred to regular coffee), nor could it examine whether adding cream and/or sugar to coffee made any difference in terms of liver cancer risk.

How might coffee protect the liver? There are several hypotheses that could explain this. Coffee contains various minerals and antioxidants—including chlorogenic acid, cafestol and kahweol—that may inhibit the development of liver cancer. Coffee also reduces the activity of certain enzymes that may play a role in the development of several liver diseases. And some studies show that coffee consumption is inversely related to diabetes and cirrhosis, both of which are known risk factors for liver cancer.

Coffee lovers, take note: For lots more great reasons to make coffee a regular part of your diet, see “More on Coffee’s Health Benefits,” above. You’ll learn, for instance, how coffee is linked to a better mental concentration and reduced risk for depression, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and even death from various causes. Then check out these articles for easy ways to make your coffee more enjoyable than ever…