It is believed that the human mouth contains roughly 700 different types of bacteria. While some are good and beneficial for our body, some are bad. A new study suggests that people who drink one or more alcoholic drinks on a daily basis have an overabundance of bad bacteria and the number of good bacteria in the mouth decreases, as opposed to non-drinkers. So does drinking increase bad mouth bacteria?
“This is the first comprehensive study of alcohol intake on oral microbiome,” Jiyoung Ahn, the senior investigator of the study published on Monday in the journal Microbiome, and an epidemiologist at the NYU School of Medicine told CNN. “Oral microbiome” is the colony of bacteria that lives in our mouth, in medical terms.
The study tested a group of 1,044 healthy people that were aged from 55 to 87. The group contained 270 nondrinkers, 614 moderate drinkers, and 160 heavy drinkers. The scientists asked for spit samples from the participants and required additional information about their eating, drinking and regular lifestyle habits.
Ahn and her colleagues conducted an analysis to sort and count the oral bacteria that was present in the samples of the participants. The results showed more bad mouth bacteria in the drinkers, the Actinomyces and Neisseria species of bacteria, which are all potentially harmful and could cause periodontal disease. The moderate and mainly nondrinkers had Lactobacillales which belongs to a family of bacteria which is known to help reduction of gum inflammation and diseases.
“We did not find a specific threshold level,” Ahn said, though heavier drinking led to more extensive changes in the oral microbiome. She said in an email to CNN that “heavy alcohol intake is a known risk factor for multiple chronic diseases, including cancers (head and neck, esophagus, colon and breast), liver disease and cardiovascular diseases.”
Scientists would need more study participants to see whether there is any difference between the drinkers who would drink only one type of beverage, such as only beer, for example.
Explaining the bad mouth bacteria, Oliver George, an associate professor in the department of neurology at the Scripps Research Institute points out that the analysis the researchers conducted is extremely detailed and comprehensive and that it could “indicate (or not) if there is a level of drinking that doesn’t affect your mouth microbiome.”
“They could affect aging, cancer, a variety of health conditions and even control brain function and play a role in behavior,” CNN quoted. Still, the study results cannot completely reveal whether the mouth bacteria imbalance for heavy drinkers also results in increased development of cancer, according to George.
In the future, Ahn and her colleagues are optimistic about investigating the reason behind the association between drinking alcoholic beverages and oral microbial imbalance.
There is also a separate study, in which researchers suggest that one in 10 cases of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) could be associated with drinking. Researchers published their findings on Monday in the medical journal BMJ Open.