Omega-3s May Reduce Incidence of Gingivitis

October 28, 2010

Dietary intake of even modest amounts of omega-3s may significantly improve gum care, according to a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Dietary intake of even modest amounts of omega-3s may significantly improve gum care, according to a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The American Dietetic Association reports that researchers from the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed data from 900 patients involved in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to come to their conclusion. Participants in NHANES, conducted between 1999 and 2004, were given 24-hour food recall interviews to assess their dietary intake and supplement usage relating to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and alpha linolenic acid (ALA).

Levels of intake were then compared with dental records for incidence of periodontitis, the condition of gum inflammation also known as gingivitis.

"We found that omega-3 fatty acid intake, particularly [DHA] and [EPA], are inversely associated with periodontitis in the U.S. population," said Asghar Z. Naqvi, MPH, MNS, from the department of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Results of the data collection showed that 8.2% of subjects had periodontitis, but high intake of DHA came with a 20% risk reduction. A smaller association was observed with high EPA intake and ALA did not show a statistically significant effect.

DHA and EPA were actually effective at “relatively modest intakes,” according to Elizabeth Krall Kaye, PhD, professor at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, who submitted accompanying commentary with the study.

"To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application,” said Naqvi. “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 omega-3 fatty acids in other chronic inflammatory conditions, it is possible that treating periodontitis with omega-3 fatty acids could have the added benefit of preventing other chronic diseases associated with inflammation, including stroke as well."

To read the study abstract, click here.