Researchers from the National Cancer Institute in the US found that higher coffee consumption, regardless of caffeine content, was linked to lower levels of abnormal liver enzymes.
This suggests that chemical compounds in coffee other than caffeine may help protect the liver.
"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," said lead researcher Dr Qian Xiao from the National Cancer Institute.
For the present study, researchers used data from the US 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," Xiao said.
"Further studies are needed to identify these components," Xiao said.
The study is published in Hepatology, a journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
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