Heavy drinking may change the bacteria In your mouth and raise disease risk

(Jamie Ducharme/ Time) — There’s still quite a bit scientists don’t know about the microbiome: the vast collection of microorganisms living within your body. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that your lifestyle habits, from the foods you eat to the medications you take, may influence these bacterial colonies.

Even drinking seems to have an effect. A new study, published Tuesday in the journal Microbiome, finds that drinking alcohol may alter some of the approximately 700 types of bacteria in your mouth — and probably not for the better.

The study finds that alcohol may give rise to strains of oral bacteria that are linked to a heightened risk of some types of cancer, gum disease and heart disease, while simultaneously suppressing varieties that can protect the body from infection. Past research has found similar results in animals, but the new paper is among the first to demonstrate such a link in humans.

“We know that alcohol is a risk factor for many other diseases,” says senior investigator Jiyoung Ahn, an epidemiologist at the New York University School of Medicine. “This is another scientific rationale, or justification, that heavy drinking is not recommended. We should avoid heavy drinking in terms of maintaining a healthy microbiome.” (…)

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