Study Links Oral Bacteria with Obesity

The results of research published in a recent issue of the Journal of Dental Research suggest that oral bacteria may serve as a marker for the development of obesity.

Due to concern about the increasing prevalence of overweight people, researchers at The Forsyth Institute, Boston, and Piracicaba Dental School, State University of Campinas, Piracicaba, São Paulo, Brazil, conducted a study that focused on the possible role of oral bacteria as a contributor to obesity.

The study's researchers collected saliva from 313 overweight women (those with a body mass index between 27 and 32). They identified and enumerated bacterial populations in the participants' saliva samples by means of a DNA probe analysis, and they compared the levels with data from a control group of 232 healthy men and women who also were control participants in periodontal disease studies.

Researchers found that seven of the 40 bacterial species investigated were present in measurably higher concentrations in the saliva of the overweight women as compared to the control group. They also found that 98 percent of the overweight women could be identified by the presence of a single bacterial species at levels greater than one percent of the total salivary bacteria.

The results of the researchers' analysis of these data suggest that the composition of salivary bacteria changes in overweight women. The investigators concluded that it seems likely that these bacterial species could serve as biological indicators of a developing overweight condition. Future research will investigate the role oral bacteria plays in the pathology that leads to obesity.

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