Drinking alcohol may increase levels of harmful mouth bacteria

Research we're watching

There's a lot of buzz these days about how gut bacteria affect your health, but those might not be the only body microbes that matter. The population of bacteria in your mouth may also play a role in your risk of various diseases. And researchers recently found that alcohol consumption could influence your oral bacteria.

A study published online April 23 by Microbiome found that people who had one or more alcoholic drinks a day had more harmful bacteria in their mouths than nondrinkers. The researchers found types of bacteria that have been linked to gum disease, cancer, and heart disease.

The study looked at 1,044 people ages 55 to 87 involved in two ongoing national cancer trials. All the subjects, who were primarily white, were in good health when the study started. They provided researchers with samples of their oral bacteria and answered detailed questions about how much alcohol they drank. The study didn't look at what type of alcohol participants drank.

The findings of this study may give you reason to rethink your drinking, and will likely be the subject of more research in the future.

Image: © mphillips007/Getty Images

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.