The morning after the night before often gets a kickstart with a steaming mug of Java, but drinking coffee could be helping those who partake of alcoholic beverages more than was previously thought, at least according to research published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine. According to researchers in California, drinking coffee may have a preventative effect on developing the alcoholic liver disease cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis progressively destroys healthy liver tissue and replaces it with scar tissue. Viruses such as hepatitis C can cause cirrhosis, but long-term, heavy alcohol use is the most common cause of the disease in developed countries. Most drinkers, however, never develop cirrhosis, thankfully, because other factors such as genetics, diet and nutrition, smoking and the interaction of alcohol with other toxins that damage the liver are involved.
Arthur Klatsky and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, in Oakland, have analyzed data from 125,580 individuals (55,247 men and 70,333 women) who did not report liver disease when they had baseline examinations, between 1978 and 1985. Participants filled out a questionnaire to provide information about how much alcohol, coffee and tea they drank per day during the past year. Some of the individuals also had their blood tested for levels of certain liver enzymes; the enzymes are released into the bloodstream when the liver is diseased or damaged.
By the end of 2001, 330 participants had been diagnosed with cirrhosis, including 199 with alcoholic cirrhosis. For each cup of coffee they drank per day, participants were 22 percent less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis.
The researchers don’t suggest that physicians prescribe coffee to prevent alcoholic cirrhosis, coffee brings its own problems, after all, including detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system. “Even if coffee is protective, the primary approach to reduction of alcoholic cirrhosis is avoidance or cessation of heavy alcohol drinking,” says Klatsky. I assume that the research did not investigate whether decaf has a beneficial effect. Either way, it’s a pointless morning-after drink anyway, you’re probably better off going for green tea, or a herbal infusion as an alternative to the hair of the dog, just make sure you use it to wash down a nice fry up of sausage, eggs, and tomatoes.