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Fish oil helps fight gum disease

Journal of the American Dietetic Association,
November 2010

Fish oil helps fight gum disease

Eating moderate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, typically found in foods such as salmon and other fatty fish, help ward off gum disease. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, mackerel, swordfish, walnuts and flax seeds.

Periodontitis is a chronic inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria that accumulate around the gum line. Over time, the gum tissue can recede and separate from teeth, leading to periodontal pockets, or spaces between the gums and the teeth, and loss of the bone that provides the supporting structure for the teeth. In the general population, about 11 percent of adults aged 50 to 64 years have moderate or severe periodontitis, rising to 20 percent of those over age 75. The usual treatment of periodontitis is good dental hygiene, including manually removing bacteria during dental appointments and applying local antibiotics to kill the bacteria, though there is disagreement among dentists about how well local antibiotics work.

Researchers divided nearly 9,200 adults aged 20 years and above into three groups based on their consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Consumption was assessed by asking participants to recall exactly what they'd eaten during the prior 24 hours.

Dental exams showed participants in the middle and upper third for omega-3 fatty acid consumption were between 23 percent and 30 percent less likely to have gum disease than those who consumed the least amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Specifically, the researchers found that the omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were associated with less gum disease. The association with linolenic acid (LNA) was not statistically significant.

Eating fatty fish seems to have a lot of benefit, but the researchers failed to find benefits of eating large amounts. Since the study was a snapshot of a single day's diet, the researchers could not determine exactly how much fish oil people should consume regularly. But following accepted guidelines from major organisations, which recommend eating fatty fish at least twice a week, is probably a good idea, not just for gum disease but for overall health.

The benefits of consuming omega-3 fatty acids include prevention of sudden death caused by heart rhythm disturbances, as well as lower risk of heart attacks and stroke.

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