Turns Out Decaf Coffee Has Body Perks Too

Turns Out Decaf Coffee Has Body Perks Too

It won’t put pep in your step, but decaffeinated coffee could keep your liver healthy, according to a new study.

More than half of American adults — or 100 million people — drink coffee each day. Most down the joe for the pick-me-up effects of caffeine, but a growing body of research has linked coffee to several health benefits, including enhanced brain activity, weight loss, and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease — and now, a healthier liver.

“Prior research found that drinking coffee may have a possible protective effect on the liver,” said lead researcher Dr. Qian Xiao in a press release. “However, the evidence wasn’t clear if that benefit may extend to decaffeinated coffee.” So the question remained: Was it the caffeine or something else in the coffee that was protecting the liver?

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In their study, published in Hepatology, Xiao and other researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that people who drank higher amounts of coffee, regardless of caffeine content, had lower levels of abnormal liver enzymes. This suggests that something else in coffee other than caffeine may help protect the liver.

The liver is the largest organ in the body and, when healthy, aids in food digestion, energy storage, and the removal of toxins. When the liver is damaged, it leaks higher than normal amounts of certain chemicals (including liver enzymes) into the bloodstream. Several factors, such as obesity and hepatitis, contribute to elevated liver enzymes, as can overconsumption of alcohol and certain prescription or over-the-counter medications. 

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For the current study, the researchers examined 27,793 participants, 20 years of age or older over a 24-hour period. The team measured blood levels of several markers of liver function, including aminotransferase (ALT), aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphatase (ALP) and gamma glutamyl transaminase (GGT) to determine liver health.

People who consumed three or more cups of coffee per day had lower levels of all three liver enzymes compared to those not consuming any coffee, thus indicating that the coffee drinkers had better functioning livers. These results were also found in people who only drank decaf coffee. “Our findings link total and decaffeinated coffee intake to lower liver enzyme levels,” said Xiao, “These data suggest that ingredients in coffee, other than caffeine, may promote liver health. Further studies are needed to identify these components.”

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