Obese young adults more likely to have gum disease

June 11, 2003 in Nutrition Topics in the News

Obese young adults more likely to have gum disease

A new study adds yet another item to the long list of health problems associated with obesity; gum disease.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, found that obese young adults had a 76 percent higher risk of periodontal disease -- a bacterial infection of the gums that can lead to tooth loss -- than those with normal weight.

What's more, young adults who had larger-than-normal waistlines (40 inches plus for men and 34 for women) were about twice as likely to have gum disease as their slimmer counterparts. The correlation between obesity and periodontal disease was only seen in the 18-34 age group, and not in older adults.

In general, it's believed that diet plays a role in gum disease. Certain types of foods and the amount consumed may help disease-causing bacteria to thrive in the mouth. Eating fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables may reduce the accumulation of dental plaque -- the sticky substance in which bacteria live. A "softer" diet, however, may promote plaque build-up. It's also possible that obese young adults consume too little of things that are important for good oral health -- namely vitamin C and calcium.

The study findings are worrisome because periodontal disease, in addition to causing tooth loss, may contribute to other diseases. "We know for sure -- it's confirmed -- that treatment of periodontal disease will reduce the need for treatment of diabetes," said the study author. Periodontal disease may also contribute to heart disease.

All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.