Intake of Decaf Coffee Good for Liver Health, Study

First Posted: Oct 10, 2014 03:39 AM EDT

A team of researchers has found that intake of decaffeinated coffee offers protective benefits to the liver.

Millions of Americans take decaf coffee to get that bitter taste without the side effects of caffeine. It accounts for 12 percent of total worldwide consumption of coffee. Decaf coffee is a healthy drink for those who are very particular about their health or those who are not accustomed to the effects of caffeine.

Studies have shown that intake of decaf coffee helps lower the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, gout and cardiovascular disease mortality.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, found that higher consumption of coffee, irrespective of the caffeine content, was associated to lower bowel levels of abnormal liver enzymes. The finding indicated that the chemical compounds present in coffee other than caffeine helps protect the liver.

According to a 2010 report from the National Coffee Association, consumption of coffee is highly prevalent with over half of all Americans above the age of 18 drinking - on an average - three cups per day.  It is reported that International Coffee Association has increased by one percent every year since the 1980s and in the recent years this has increased by 2 percent.  

"Prior research found that drinking coffee may have a possible protective effect on the liver. However, the evidence is not clear if that benefit may extend to decaffeinated coffee," explains lead researcher Dr. Qian Xiao from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

In the current study, the researchers worked on the data retrieved from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2010. The data was of 27,793 participants aged 20years and older. As a part of the study, the participants provided information about their coffee intake in a 24-hour period. The blood levels for several markers of liver function was measured including aminotransferase (ALT), aminotransferase (AST), alkaline phosphate (ALP) and gamma glutamyl transaminase (GGT) to determine the health of the liver.

It was observed that those who took three or more cups of coffee per day had lower levels of ALT, AST, ALP and GGT as compared to those who did not consume any coffee. They also noticed low levels of these liver enzymes in those who drink decaf coffee.

Dr. Xiao concludes, "Our findings link total and decaffeinated coffee intake to lower liver enzyme levels. These data suggest that ingredients in coffee, other than caffeine, may promote liver health. Further studies are needed to identify these components."

The finding was published in Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease.

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