Chocolate halves the risk of gum disease, study says

Chocolate halves the risk of gum disease, study says

Researchers found that antioxidants from cocoa beans found in dark chocolate were linked to a 54% lower risk of gum disease.

Cheese was similarly associated with a 54% reduced risk of periodontitis. Unsalted peanuts and rice were linked to an even higher reduction, at 71% and 58% respectively.

Conversely, the study found that filtered coffee increased the risk of gum disease by 42%. Low calorie drinks were also linked to a higher risk of 57%. The study suggests that additive ingredients in these drinks could be contributing factors for periodontitis.

Researchers from Chongqing Medical University in China reached these findings through analysis of UK Biobank data. This contains health and lifestyle information on more than 500,000 people aged 40 to 69.

The study researchers call for greater consideration of diet in prevention and treatment of gum disease. They say: ‘The findings underscore the need for incorporating dietary counselling into periodontal disease management protocols and suggest the potential of personalised dietary strategies for periodontitis patients.’

The researchers consider inflammatory mechanisms to be the main factor in the impact of diet on gum health. Certain foods and antioxidants are considered anti-inflammatory, while others can exacerbate inflammation. The team adds: ‘The findings align with previous research linking pro-inflammatory dietary patterns to an increased risk of periodontitis, suggesting the pro-inflammatory potential of certain dietary choices.’

Gum disease and wider health

Recent studies have explored the impact of gum disease on wider health. In June, researchers identified a link between periodontitis and stroke in young adults. Participants with cryptogenic ischemic stroke (CIS) had a higher prevalence of periodontitis compared to those without. Participants with more severe periodontitis also had a stronger link with CIS.

Study author Dr Svetislav Zaric said: ‘Periodontitis is deep inflammation of the gums, caused by bacteria that grow under the gum line. With the infection sending bacteria around the bloodstream from the mouth to other parts of the bodies, the longterm presence of this has the potential to shape our health well beyond the mouth.’

Earlier this year, another study found that treating gum disease following surgery for atrial fibrillation reduced the risk of the condition returning. Those who had severe gum inflammation but were treated were 61% less likely to experience atrial fibrillation again.

‘Gum disease can be modified by dental intervention,’ said lead study author Shunsuke Miyauchi. ‘Proper management of gum disease appears to improve the prognosis of atrial fibrillation, and many people around the world could benefit from it.’

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