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Heavy Drinking May Increase Vulnerability To Unwanted Bacteria

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Heavy drinkers may be more susceptible to “bad” bacteria. A recent study suggests that people who drink more than the recommended daily alcohol limit may be cultivating an unhealthy mix of bacteria in their mouths, including bugs that have been linked to gum infection, heart disease, and cancer.

According to the researchers, those who drink a lot have fewer “good” bacteria in their mouths as compared to their more sober counterparts. The study is one of the latest to focus on the factors that influence the human microbiome a.k.a. the trillions of natural bacteria and other microbes in the human body, CBS reports.

There have been previous studies that established links between the makeup of the gut’s microbiome and the risks to various diseases. The general conclusion is that the more diverse a person’s gut microbiome, the better. On the other hand, an imbalance in the mouth’s microbiome raises a person’s risk to cavities and gum disease, even possibly cancers of the head, neck, and digestive track, as well as heart disease.

There is proof that alcohol changes the bacterial makeup of the mouth, the results taken from a sample test on 1,044 American adults — 25% nondrinkers, 59% moderated drinkers, and 15% heavy drinkers. The findings show that drinkers, especially heavy drinkers, tended to have fewer Lactobacillales, a type of good bacteria commonly found in probiotic supplements. What exactly to do with this information, however, is not yet very clear — researchers have yet to study the topic further.

This may not be conclusive proof that alcohol is the culprit for having less good bacteria because according to Yiping Han, a professor of dental medicine and microbiology in New York City’s Columbia University, the oral microbiome is influenced by a wide range of factors, including diet, dental care, and demographics.

The findings were published in the online journal Microbiome on April 23.

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