Anyone who’s ever woken up with a brain-searing hangover knows how necessary that first morning cup of coffee is to recover from a hard night of drinking. Turns out even the most boozy of us may have underestimated its healing effects.
A new study, published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, suggests that coffee can decrease the risks of developing liver cirrhosis after drinking too much alcohol.
The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Southampton. It’s not a clinical trial-rather, researchers pooled results from nine previous studies that recorded both the incidence of liver cirrhosis and caffeine consumption. In total, 432,133 participants contributed to the studies, across a broad demographic range.
Liver cirrhosis is a big killer, claiming over a million people worldwide every year. It’s most famously caused by excessive long-term alcohol consumption, but also brought about by hepatitis infections, immune disorders, and even obesity or diabetes.
The results of the meta-study demonstrate a significant protective effect from consuming coffee: the analysis shows that increasing coffee consumption by two cups per day halves the risk of liver cirrhosis, including alcoholic cirrhosis. The halving of the risk also holds true for death rates. The stats get better the more coffee you consume: four cups a day drops the risk of liver cirrhosis by 65 percent.
Given the complex chemical makeup of coffee, it’s difficult to say exactly how the caffeine is protecting the liver. This is also only a meta-study: although the analysis seems robust, controlling for bias and variables across that great a sample size and time period is an imperfect science at best.