If you can stomach taking more shots than you can count, your liver probably hates you. (Think you get bad hangovers? Consider the state of the organ that metabolizes all that alcohol.) But new science suggests there may be a way to get back on your liver's good side.
Previous research has linked caffeinated coffee consumption to lower risk of liver disease. But they didn't know whether to credit caffeine or coffee for the benefits, and according to that research's results, you'd need to drink at least two cups of coffee per day. (It's not a ton, but bad news if you're naturally sensitive to caffeine.)
In a new study, researchers from the National Cancer Institute examined the 24-hour dietary recalls of 27,793 adults, then assessed their liver enzyme levels, a common way to test how well the liver functions. People who reported drinking three or more cups of coffee were the most likely to have normal liver enzyme levels—regardless of whether they drank decaf or the strong stuff.
Interestingly, heavy alcohol drinkers who also drank coffee appeared to have healthier livers than heavy drinkers who drank no coffee. "This apparent benefit was far more modest than the harmful effects of heavy alcohol drinking, which is an established cause for liver disease," says lead study author Dr. Qian Xiao from the National Cancer Institute.
Researchers say the data suggests that there are ingredients besides caffeine in coffee that may promote liver health, but they'll have to do more research to figure out exactly how everything works before they start to prescribe coffee to lushes.
Ultimately, the best way to protect your liver from alcohol is to lay off it. If that's not happening any time soon, the coffee thing may help. (Coffee cocktails, anyone?)
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.