A new study reported by Dr. Stanton T. Siu, chief of pulmonary medicine at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Oakland, California, was presented at the American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting, in Chicago in October.
The study suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may have a protective effect for lung function.
“We found that that if you drank less than two glasses of alcohol per day of wine, beer, or spirits that you had much less likelihood of developing obstructive airways disease, which includes asthma and emphysema,” Sui said.
Siu and his colleagues analyzed the health records of almost 178,000 patients living in northern California. All had undergone exams between 1964 and 1973 as members of the same local health plan. Exam questionnaires completed at the time recorded their smoking and drinking habits, as well as their lung function histories. As part of their exams, all the patients also underwent a range of pulmonary function tests (PFT) designed to gauge how well a person inhales, exhales and transfers oxygen from the lungs into the bloodstream. Siu’s team found that “light to moderate drinkers” (under two glasses of alcohol per day) were the least likely to have problems with lung function.
The relationship between moderate drinking and healthy lungs was consistent regardless of smoking habits or a previous experience of lung and/or heart disease. The survey records had not broken down alcohol consumption according to type of alcohol consumed, so it’s not possible to tell from this study if any category of drink is healthier for the lungs than another. Siu said that light drinking’s protective effect roughly translates to a 20% reduction in the risk for developing lung disease. The link between alcohol use and lung health was consistent across all ethnic groups, all age groups, and for both men and women.
Source: Stanton T. Siu, MD; Neil Schachter, MD; Oct. 24, 2007, presentations, American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting, Chicago