Coffee lovers who are a healthy weight but drink too much booze have a lower risk of developing alcohol-induced cirrhosis of the liver, which kills 300,000 people around the world every year.
That's one of the key findings of a new study led by the Centenary Institute, an independent medical research body affiliated to the University of Sydney, in conjunction with the GenomALC Consortium, a collaboration between a number of research groups worldwide.
The aim of the study was to identify risks associated with cirrhosis in heavy drinkers and to gain insights into ways to help prevent or reduce cirrhosis in people whose drinking puts them at risk.
The lead author of the study, which was published in the science journal American Journal of Gastroenterology, is Dr John Whitfield from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.
Dr Whitfield said the study found evidence an increased risk of developing alcohol-induced cirrhosis could be inherited, especially from fathers.
"Our study showed that the risk of cirrhosis was significantly increased in individuals if the father was a chronic alcohol user and had died from liver disease," he added.
"We also found that high-risk drinkers who consumed coffee were less likely to develop cirrhosis, while tea drinking only marginally lowered the risk."
Only a minority of high-risk drinkers, approximately 10-15 per cent, develop alcohol-induced cirrhosis.
"But the survival time for those individuals who do develop this devastating disease can be as low as one-to-two years," said Devanshi Seth, Head of the Centenary Institute Alcoholic Liver Disease Research Program and a study senior author.
She stressed the best way to reduce harm from alcohol was by reducing or cutting out alcohol, but acknowledged that was too hard for many.
Timothy Morgan, a co-senior author of the study, noted obesity and diabetes were both independently linked with an increased risk of alcohol-induced cirrhosis.
"High-risk drinkers who have diabetes in middle age are particularly likely to progress to cirrhosis," he said.
Associate Professor Seth said the findings could have major public health consequences.
"Measures such as maintaining a healthy body weight, intensive treatment of diabetes or pre-diabetic states, and encouragement of coffee consumption may be useful lifestyle interventions to reduce the risk of alcohol-induced cirrhosis for high-risk drinkers," she said.
The research was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a part of the National Institutes of Health USA.
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.