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Omega-3s May Benefit Periodontal Disease

BOSTON and NIIGATA, Japan—Periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory disease that inflicts gum tissue and structures supporting the teeth, is more prevalent in the United States than originally estimated, possibly by 50 percent, according to the Journal of Dental Research. Fortunately, new research is revealing some relief, possibly via omega-3s. Two separate studies investigated the relationship between omega-3 fatty acids and periodontal disease.

In the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Harvard researchers reported supplementing with polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as omega-3s, may be an effective treatment and prevention of periodontitis.

"We found omega-3 fatty acid intake, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are inversely associated with periodontitis in the U.S. population," said Asghar Z. Naqvi, MPH, MNS, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, according to

More than 9,000 adults who participated in NHANES between 1999 and 2004 who had received dental examinations were estimated for their dietary DHA, EPA and LNA intake from 24-hour food recall interviews and data regarding supplementary use of PUFAs were captured as well. The prevalence of periodontitis in the study sample was 8.2 percent. There was an approximately 20-percent reduction in periodontitis prevalence in those subjects who consumed the highest amount of dietary DHA. The reduction correlated with EPA was smaller, while the correlation to linolenic acid was not statistically significant.

Separately, Japanese researchers found there may be an inverse, independent relation of dietary DHA intake to the progression of periodontal disease in older people (Nutrition. 2010;26(11-12):1105-90). Fifty-five participants aged 74 years were randomly selected from a longitudinal interdisciplinary study of aging. Dietary intake data were obtained by a three-day weighed food intake. The dietary intakes of energy, DHA and EPA were calculated based on the Standard Food Composition Tables in Japan. Dental examinations were carried out at baseline and once a year for 5 years. The number of teeth with periodontal progression over five years per person was calculated as "periodontal disease events." Negative binomial regression analysis was conducted, which included DHA, EPA and other covariates as independent variables to estimate the influence on periodontal disease events. Longitudinal data were analyzed for participants for whom data were available for five years (n=36). Low DHA intake was significantly associated with more periodontal disease events. The mean number of periodontal disease events for participants who consumed the lowest tertile of DHA was approximately 1.5 times larger than the reference group, after simultaneously adjusting for possible confounders.

Both of these studies show promise for omega-3s’ role in inflammation, including oral inflammation, i.e., periodontal disease.

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