Previous research has shown that drinking coffee can benefit the liver, but a new study indicates that drinking decaf also lowers liver enzyme levels, suggesting the benefits are not linked to the caffeine in regular coffee.

Researchers led by Dr. Qian Xiao from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland studied over 27,000 participants. Each participant provided a 24-hour dietary recall reporting their coffee intake, and the researchers measured blood levels of liver function.

Results showed that participants who drank 3 or more cups of coffee per day had lower levels of all 4 liver enzymes, compared with those who did not drink any coffee. And, the team found these same results in participants who only drank decaf coffee.

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

Americans are definitely gravitating toward coffee. According to a 2010 report from the National Coffee Association, more than 50% of all Americans over age 18 drink around 3 cups each day.

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