Researchers from the US National Institute of Cancer have published a study that suggests drinking coffee, regardless of caffeine content was linked benefit the health of the liver, suggesting that a compound in coffee other than caffeine may help to protect the liver.
Coffee consumption has a high prevalence in the United States and Europe. According to a 2010 study by the US National Coffee Association, more than half of U.S. citizens over 18 drinks on average three cups of coffee daily. Also, the Association reported that coffee consumption has increased by 1% annually since the eighties.
Previous studies have showed health benefits related to coffee, for example it may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
“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 Maryland, US.
For the present study, published in Hepatology a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, researchers used data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES, 1999-2010). The study population included 27,793 participants, 20 years of age or older, who provided coffee intake in 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.
Participants who reported drinking three or more cups of coffee per day had lower levels of ALT, AST, ALP and GGT compared to those not consuming any coffee. Researchers also found low levels of these liver enzymes in participants drinking only decaffeinated coffee.
“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,” concluded Dr. Xiao