The jury is out on whether caffeine helps a hangover. Some say a cup of coffee and a painkiller are science's simplest answer to the aftermath of a night out; others say it can worsen the dehydration and headaches that often follow with heavy drinking. And while there's still no clear answer on the benefits of coffee as a hangover cure, as Reuters reported, a new study out of the U.K. suggests drinking two additional cups of coffee daily can lower the risk of liver damage.
"Cirrhosis is potentially fatal and there is no cure as such," Oliver Kennedy, the study's lead author, told Reuters. "Therefore, it is significant that the risk of developing cirrhosis may be reduced by consumption of coffee, a cheap, ubiquitous and well-tolerated beverage."
Cirrhosis is a disease characterized by the liver's slow accumulation of scar tissue. The buildup can eventually prevent the organ from functioning the way it should, as it interferes with blood flow through the liver and keeps it from processing nutrients, drugs, hormones and toxins.
One of the most common causes of cirrhosis — which, according to Reuters, kills more than 1 million people around the world annually — is heavy, long-term drinking. As this latest study found, drinking an extra cup of coffee translated to a 22% lower risk of cirrhosis, while two cups meant a 43% lower risk, three cups meant a 57% lower risk and four cups, a 65% decrease.
Because it looked at evidence presented by nine previous studies, as Reuters reported, there are a few holes in the conclusions. How the coffee is prepared may be important, and it's important to keep in mind there are other causal factors at work when it comes to liver disease.
Lovers of both coffee and booze should keep in mind that coffee is neither a miracle drug nor a cure – a sudden escalation in black coffee intake (because this study isn't talking about heavily sugared confectioner's coffee) can't reverse the effects of long-held unhealthy habits.
The health benefits of coffee are a thing over which researchers are forever bickering. What's not up for debate is the importance of sleep to the human body. When we don't spend enough time snoozing, we're more prone to weight gain, heart disease and the development of diabetes, as well as doing a number on our brain function.
People who find it hard to fall asleep at the end of a day in which they've consumed four extra cups of coffee would do well to remember the adage "everything in moderation." Really, we all would — then we might sidestep the coffee-booze binge cycle entirely.