Drinking Alcohol May Protect Lungs

Light to Moderate Alcohol Drinking May Protect Against Lung Disease

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 25, 2007

Oct. 25, 2007 -- Drinking alcohol in moderation may help you breathe easier.

A new study shows light to moderate drinkers performed better on breathing tests than people who abstain from alcohol.

Researchers found that people who drank fewer than two drinks, on average, per day had a nearly 20% lower risk of lung disease than nondrinkers.

Their results were presented at CHEST 2007, the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

Drinking Alcohol May Help Lungs

Researchers studied the relationship between alcohol consumption and lung function in more than 177,000 members of a California health plan who had health examinations between 1964 and 1973.

The participants filled out questionnaires that included questions about the usual number of alcoholic drinks consumed in a day. Their lung function was also evaluated during their examination for evidence of lung disease.

Smokers and those with a previous history of lung or heart disease were eliminated from the final analysis.

Overall, the results showed that people who drank fewer than two alcoholic drinks per day were 18% less likely to show signs of lung disease than abstainers. Those who drank three to five drinks per day had a 10% lower risk of lung disease, but heavy drinkers who drank more than six drinks per day had a 9% increased risk of lung disease.

Researcher Stanton T. Siu of Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program and colleagues say the results suggest that light to moderate alcohol drinking may have beneficial effects on lung function, but more research is needed to confirm these effects.

Show Sources

SOURCES: CHEST 2007, Chicago, Oct. 20-25, 2007. News release, American College of Chest Physicians.

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