Drinking too much alcohol may disrupt the healthy balance in the lungs and impact your breathing, a new study warns.
In the study, adults who drink excessively were found to have less nitric oxide in their exhaled breath than adults who do not drink.
The finding, published in the journal Chest, is significant because nitric oxide helps protect against certain harmful bacteria that can cause respiratory infections.
"Alcohol appears to disrupt the healthy balance in the lung," said lead author Majid Afshar, Assistant Professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in the US.
Nitric oxide is a colourless gas produced by the body during respiration.
The researchers examined data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES). NHANES conducts interviews and physical examinations to assess the health and nutritional status of Americans.
The Loyola researchers examined data from 12,059 adults who participated in NHANES between 2007 and 2012.
Excessive drinkers were defined as heavy drinkers (more than one drink per day on average for women and more than two drinks per day for men) and people who binge drink at least once per month (four or more drinks per occasion for women and five or more drinks for men).
In the sample population researchers examined, 26.9 percent of the participants were excessive drinkers.
The researchers found that exhaled nitric oxide levels were lower in excessive drinkers than in adults who never drink, and the more alcohol an excessive drinker consumed, the lower the level of nitric oxide.
In an asthma patient, the amount of exhaled nitric oxide in a breath test provides a good indication of how well the patient's medication is working. Excessive alcohol consumption might complicate the results of such tests.
"Lung doctors may need to take this into consideration," Afshar said.
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