Heavy Drinkers Prone to Fatty Lung

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A primary reason why alcoholism is such a life-threatening disease is that it causes severe short and long term health problems such as the deterioration of vital organs. Liver failure is common in heavy drinkers, and alcoholics have a high chance of developing pneumonia because of constant drinking. Researchers are now studying the effects that alcohol has on the lungs, and why it causes drinkers to be more susceptible to serious lung diseases. It is suggested that the immune system in the lung becomes too weak to protect the host from infection and harm. However, the real challenge is finding out why the immune system weakens and becomes ineffective, which is still unknown today.

According to researchers from Thomas Jefferson University, the answer to why the immune system is damaged could have something to do with the build-up of fat caused by excessive alcohol consumption. For now it's nicknamed the "alcoholic fatty lung." According to lead researcher of the study, Ross Summer, "The fat accumulation in the lungs mimics the process that causes fat to build up and destroy the liver of alcoholics." As a result of heavy alcohol consumption, it was found (in rat models) that the lungs' immune cells, called lung macrophages, also gained more fat, keeping in mind that their normal function is to digest bacteria or sick cells in the lung.

As a result, it was found that perhaps the accumulation of fat in the lungs' immune cells caused them to be less effective at protecting its host from disease and infection.

If these model rats accurately depict how humans are affected by heavy alcohol consumption, as well as lung functionality, then it would at least suggest to Dr. Summer that lipid lowering drugs could be applied in the treatment of alcohol related illness such as ARDS, short for acute respiratory disease syndrome. In any case, the only preventable sure way to avoid these health complications is by lowering the amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis, or quit drinking altogether.

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