Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce perio disease risk

Increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the risk of periodontal disease, according to a new study published in Nutrition (January 25, 2010).

Masanori Iwasaki, D.D.S., of Niigata University and colleagues from Newcastle University, University of Nigata Prefecture, and the University of Michigan investigated the longitudinal relationship between two dietary omega-3 fatty acids -- docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) -- and periodontal disease in elderly people.

They recruited 55 people with an average age of 74 and calculated their dietary intakes of omega-3. Dental examinations were carried out at baseline and once a year for five years. Teeth with periodontal progression over the five-year period were classified as "periodontal disease events."

The average dietary intakes of EPA and DHA were 947.1 mg and 635.2 mg, respectively, according to the researchers. Over the course of five years, the participants experienced an average of 7.8 periodontal disease events. The mean number of periodontal disease events for participants who consumed the lowest tertile of DHA was approximately 1.5 times larger than the reference group, which had the highest tertile of DHA consumption.

"Low DHA intake was significantly associated with more periodontal disease events," the researchers wrote. "The findings suggest there may be an inverse, independent relation of dietary DHA intake to the progression of periodontal disease in older people."

The anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids -- commonly found in fish oil and certain plants and nuts -- have been documented in previous studies, they noted.

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