ST. LOUIS, Mo. Supplementing with fish oils could help improve gum health, according to research published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health found that dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids like fish oil, known to have anti-inflammatory properties, shows promise for the effective treatment and prevention of periodontitis, otherwise known as gum disease.
"We found that n-3 fatty acid intake, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are inversely associated with periodontitis in the U.S. population," said researcher Asghar Naqvi. "To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application. Thus, a dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis. Given the evidence indicating a role for n-3 fatty acids in other chronic inflammatory conditions, it is possible that treating periodontitis with n-3 fatty acids could have the added benefit of preventing other chronic diseases associated with inflammation, including stroke as well."
The study involved more than 9,000 adults who participated in NHANES between 1999 and 2004 who had received dental examinations. Dietary DHA, EPA and LNA intake were estimated from 24-hour food recall interviews, and data regarding supplementary use of PUFAs were captured as well. The NHANES study also collected extensive demographic, ethnic, educational and socioeconomic data, allowing the researchers to take other factors into consideration that might obscure the results.
The prevalence of periodontitis in the study sample was 8.2%. There was an approximately 20% 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 LNA was not statistically significant.
Foods that contain significant amounts of polyunsaturated fats include fatty fish like salmon, as well as peanut butter, margarine and nuts.