PhotoA new study from Loyola Medicine and Loyola University Chicago shows that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is not only bad for your liver – it can also have a severe impact on your lungs.

Researchers have found that those who drink alcohol have less nitric oxide in their lungs than those who do not. This is important because nitric oxide helps protect these vital organs from harmful bacteria that often cause infection.

Dr. Majid Afshar, lead author of the study, confirms the finding, saying that “alcohol appears to disrupt the healthy balance in the lung.” He and his colleagues believe that their findings could be important to those who abuse alcohol and those who are affected by asthma, since altered levels of nitric oxide could create complications with medication.

Increased risk of infection

The researchers came to their conclusions after studying over 12,000 adults who participated in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Examination Survey between 2007 and 2012. Those included in the study were asked about their level of alcohol consumption and were given physical examinations that measured levels of nitric oxide in their lungs.

Out of all the participants, the researchers found that 26.9% could be classified as excessive drinkers, defined as an individual who had more than one drink per day on average for women and two drinks per day for men. After controlling for several variables, the test results showed that these individuals exhaled lower levels of nitric oxide than those who did not drink. This correlation was proven to be pervasive; the more that participants reported drinking, the lower their levels of nitric oxide were.

These findings indicate that the likelihood of respiratory infections is much higher for those who drink excessively. Asthma patients need to be especially cautious, the researchers say. Measuring nitric oxide levels for these individuals is extremely common in order to see how well certain medications are working. Afshar and his colleagues believe that consuming alcohol may invalidate or obscure those results, which could lead to improper dosage recommendations.

The full study has been published the journal Chest

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