22 February 2008

Yoghurt helps fight gum disease

Regularly eating yoghurt and other foods with lactic acid may be good for your mouth, Japanese researchers report.

Regularly eating yoghurt and other foods with lactic acid may be good for your mouth, Japanese researchers report.

Dr Yoshihiro Shimazaki and colleagues found that consuming yoghurt and lactic acid drinks was significantly associated with better periodontal health. "But, milk and cheese were not," Shimazaki said.

Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial condition associated with receding gums and tooth loss in adults. Outside of regular brushing and flossing, effective measures to allay this disease are limited, Shimazaki, of Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, and colleagues note in the Journal of Periodontology.

Previous research identified a lower occurrence of periodontal disease among people who eat high amounts of dairy products, but did not identify which dairy products were most beneficial, the researchers report. Shimazaki's team assessed the severity of periodontal disease in 942 men and women, aged 40 to 79 years, and their intake of milk, cheese and lactic acid foods.

What the study showed
They found that people with generalised (more advanced) periodontal disease had a lower intake of lactic acid foods than people with localised (less advanced) periodontal disease.

Compared with individuals reporting no lactic acid food intake, those eating 55 grams or more of yoghurt or lactic acid drinks a day had significantly fewer markers of severe periodontal disease, the investigators note, once they made allowances for factors such as age, gender, smoking, alcohol intake, frequency of tooth brushing, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

"The beneficial effect on periodontal disease might be based on the probiotic effect of lactobacilli found in lactic acid foods," Shimazaki said.

Probiotics are living micro-organisms, such as the Lactobacillus bacteria in yoghurt that are beneficial to one's health. The investigators suggest follow-up studies that further analyse the probiotic effect of lactic acid foods by assessing the distribution of lactic acid bacteria in subjects' mouths based on the lactic acid foods they eat.

Future research should also examine whether continuing intake of lactic acid foods alters the progression of periodontal disease. – (ReutersHealth) - February 2008

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