Previous large-scale studies have linked coffee with a reduced risk of liver disease. The only problem? Researchers weren’t sure if it was the caffeine, one of coffee’s 1,000 other chemical compounds, or some impossible-to-nail combination.
Enter a just-published study in the journal Hepatology from the National Cancer Institute, which could help guide future research on the relationship between coffee and liver disease. In this case, researchers found that coffee drinkers–regardless if they were drinking regular coffee or decaf–showed lower levels of specific liver enzymes linked to common diseases, like cirrhosis or nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
The data was taken from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which took a look at nearly 28,000 participants over the age of 20. All of them provided their average coffee intake over a 24-hour period: Ten cups, no coffee, decaf–all that behavior was self-reported.
Then, researchers analyzed several blood markers associated with liver function in those individuals. They found that people who drank three or more cups of coffee a day (including decaf!) had lower levels of those potentially hazardous enzymes. This suggests it’s not the caffeine, but the other chemicals floating around in there.
As we wrote in August, about four cups of coffee a day might just be the magic number for getting the most out of the bean’s reported health benefits. Still, this is good news if you’re a decaf drinker, even though the stuff is nowhere near as flavorful as the undiluted version… at least for now.