Heavy alcohol drinkers may reduce their risk of acquiring the liver disease cirrhosis if they drink coffee, according to a study in the US's Archives of Internal Medicine.

Study participants drinking coffee had a 22% less chance of developing alcoholic cirrhosis than those who did not. Liver enzyme levels were higher among individuals who drank more alcohol, indicating liver disease or damage. However, those drinking both alcohol and coffee had lower levels than alcohol drinkers avoiding coffee, with the largest contrast amongst heavier alcohol consumers.

The scientists from California healthcare organisation Kaiser Permanente are "unresolved" about what ingredient protects livers, but ruled out caffeine, as tea did not deliver protection.