Increased levels of omega-3 fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) may decrease the risk of dental diseases, suggests a new study from Japan.
The average number of dental disease events was 1.5 times higher in people with low DHA levels, compared to those with the highest average levels of DHA, according to findings published in Nutrition.
In addition to being a major risk factor for tooth loss, periodontal disease has also been implicated as a risk factor for chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease (CVD). Since the condition may contribute to the overall inflammatory burden of an individual there are reports that this may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The heart health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are well-documented, being first reported in the early 1970s by Jorn Dyerberg and his co-workers in The Lancet and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To date, the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been linked to improvements in blood lipid levels, a reduced tendency of thrombosis, blood pressure and heart rate improvements, and improved vascular function.
However, links to dental health are not well documented.
“To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study of the relation between periodontal conditions and dietary omega-3 fatty acids intake in older people,” wrote the researchers, led by Masanori Iwasaki from Niigata University.
The Japanese researchers recruited 55 people with an average age of 74 and calculated dietary intakes of omega-3. The average dietary intakes of EPA and DHA were 947.1 and 635.2 milligrams, respectively, said the researchers.
Over the course of five years, the participants experienced an average of 7.8 periodontal disease events. “People with low DHA intake had an approximately 1.5 times higher incidence rate ratio of periodontal disease progression,” wrote the researchers.
“The findings suggest there may be an inverse, independent relation of dietary DHA intake to the progression of periodontal disease in older people,” they said.
Commenting on the potential mechanism, the researchers note that it is probably related the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.
“In periodontal diseases, bacteria trigger inflammatory host responses that cause destruction of the alveolar bone and periodontal connective tissue,” explained the researchers.
“According to previous reports, DHA and EPA inhibit arachidonic acid (AA) metabolism to inflammatory eicosanoids. They also give rise to mediators that are less inflammatory than those produced from AA or that are anti-inflammatory,” they added.