More than half of Americans drink a cup of coffee every day, and usually, it’s caffeinated. After all, that’s the whole point of drinking coffee, to get that nice little caffeine boost. However, science has made it a point to show us more about coffee, benefits like staving off Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. We talk about all of the nice little antioxidants in coffee, but up until now, all of the focus has been on caffeinated coffee.
Lead researcher Dr Qian Xiao says,
Prior research found that drinking coffee may have a possible protective effect on the liver. However, the evidence wasn’t clear if that benefit may extend to decaffeinated coffee. So we kept asking ourselves, was it the caffeine or some other part of the coffee that was protecting a healthy liver?
Xiao published his study with other researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Hepatology, and they found that people who drank more coffee, even decaf, had lower levels of abnormal liver enzymes. In other words, it’s something else in coffee that has liver protective benefits.
The liver in turn is the largest organ in the body, outside the skin of course, and it aids in digestion, energy storage, and the removal of toxins from the body. When the liver is damaged or not functioning properly, it leaks certain chemicals into the bloodstream. Things like excessive alcohol consumption and obesity can contribute to elevated liver enzymes, as can higher doses of over the counter or prescription medications.
The researchers were able to gather 27,793 people 20 years old or older, and they monitored them over 24 hours. They specifically looked for certain markers of liver health and function like alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT).
People who were drinking 3 or more cups of coffee per day had lower levels of all three of these major liver enzymes compared to those who did not drink coffee at all. These same results showed up in those drinking decaf. Xiao says,
These data suggest that ingredients in coffee, other than caffeine, may promote liver health. Further studies are needed to identify these components.