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Whole grains may help lower risk for periodontal disease

If your diet is rich in whole grains, chances are you’re also lowering your risk of developing periodontal disease.

"A diet that is beneficial for general health is also good for oral health," Dr. Anwar T. Merchant of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, told Reuters Health.

Researchers have recognized that diabetes and high levels of blood sugar increase the risk and severity of periodontal disease, an inflammation of the gums also known as periodontitis, and that whole grains and fiber improve the body’s ability to process blood sugar.

But the new findings suggest "periodontitis may be prevented by diet," said Dr. Merchant.

A study of 34,000 men and their diet showed that over a 14-year period, 1,897 were diagnosed with periodontitis. The men who said they ate about three servings a day of brown rice, dark breads, popcorn and other whole grains were 23 percent less likely to develop periodontitis than those who said they ate less than one daily serving of whole grains.

"The likely mechanism is as follows," Dr. Merchant told Reuters Health. "Whole grain intake improves glucose metabolism, resulting in lower levels of blood glucose. Lower blood glucose levels are reported to reduce the risk of periodontitis in diabetics. Lower blood glucose levels—resulting from consuming whole grains—may reduce the risk of periodontitis in non-diabetics as well."

Three or four servings of whole grains—such as three or four slices of whole wheat bread—"may be optimal to reduce periodontitis risk," said Dr. Merchant.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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