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Alcohol consumption increases oral disease causing bacteria, Recent study

NEW YORK, U.S.: Many people enjoy a drink, and now researchers from the New York University (NYU) School of Medicine have identified that alcohol consumption affects the oral microbiome. In their study, they found that men and women who had one or more alcoholic drinks per day had an overabundance of oral bacteria associated with periodontal disease, some cancers and heart disease.

“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,” said the study’s senior researcher, Dr. Jiyoung Ahn, Associate Director of Population Sciences at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center.

"Roughly 10 percent of American adults are estimated to be heavy drinkers, which experts define as consumption of one or more drinks per day for women and two or more drinks per day for men", says Ahn. She believes that her team’s study offers evidence that rebalancing some of the 700 types of bacteria in the oral cavity could potentially reverse or prevent some health problems linked to drinking.

Of the numerous studies on alcohol and its effects, this is the first research of its kind that directly compares drinking levels and their effects on all oral bacteria, according to the study’s authors.

The study involved 1,044 mostly white participants between the ages of 55 and 87 enrolled in one of two ongoing national cancer trials who were healthy at the time of joining. Using oral wash samples of their oral microbiome, along with detailed information about their alcohol consumption, laboratory testing was used to genetically sort and quantify the oral bacteria among the 270 nondrinkers, 614 moderate drinkers and 160 heavy drinkers. The results were plotted on graphs to determine the abundance of bacterial genera in drinkers compared with nondrinkers.

According to the researchers, a possible explanation for drinking-related microbiome imbalances could be that acids in alcoholic beverages make the oral environment hostile to the growth of certain bacteria. Another reason could be the buildup of harmful byproducts from the breakdown of alcohol, including chemicals called acetaldehydes, which along with harmful toxins in the mouth from tobacco smoke, are produced by certain bacteria, such as Neisseria.

Regarding the results, Ahn said that, while their study was large enough to capture differences in bacteria between drinkers and nondrinkers, more participants would be needed to assess any microbiome differences between those who consumed only wine, beer or liquor. The team’s next step is to establish the biological mechanisms of alcohol’s effects on the oral microbiome.

The study, titled “Drinking alcohol is associated with variation in the human oral microbiome in a large study of American adults,” was published on April 24, 2018, in Microbiome.

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