Booze can make you tipsy. The same goes for the balance of bacteria in your mouth, which has potentially serious health consequences.
Researchers report that compared to teetotalers, men and woman who have more than one alcoholic drink a day have more harmful oral bacteria linked to gum disease, heart disease and cancer.
The study, led by epidemiologist Jiyoung Ahn of NYU Langone Health in New York and published in Microbiome, is based on a pair of large surveys involving more than 1,000 people that included data on drinking habits and oral samples.
In terms of alcohol consumption, 270 subjects didn’t drink, 614 drank moderately and 160 were heavy drinkers.
“Men who drank more than two drinks a day on average and women who drank more than one drink daily were classified as heavy drinkers,” NBC News reports.
Drinkers were found to have an abundance of potentially harmful Bacteroidales, Actinomyces and Neisseria, and a lack of beneficial Lactobacillales.
“Our study offers clear evidence that drinking is bad for maintaining a healthy balance of microbes in the mouth and could help explain why drinking, like smoking, leads to bacterial changes already tied to cancer and chronic disease,” Ahn said in a statement.
Rebalancing the hundreds of bacteria in the mouth could reverse or prevent some health problems tied to drinking.
The new research joins mounting investigations into the microbiome — the body’s collection of microorganisms including bacteria in our bodies that affect our health.
The study, Ahn told NBC News, “provides another scientific rationale for avoiding excessive alcohol drinking.”
Researchers note that the observational study doesn’t show cause and effect. More research is required to determine if drinking alcohol kills good bacteria or simply encourages growth of bad bacteria.