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Carbohydrate and sugary diets can lead to poor dental health: Research

by Pragati Singh

A recent study on postmenopausal women discovers associations between commonly eaten meals and the variety and makeup of mouth bacteria. Researchers from the University of Buffalo have discovered how certain foods affect the oral microbiome of postmenopausal women. They discovered that consuming more sugary and high glycemic load foods, such as doughnuts and other baked goods, regular soft drinks, breads, and nonfat yogurts, may influence poor oral health and, possibly, systemic health outcomes in older women due to the impact these foods have on the oral microbiome.

The UB-led team investigated whether carbohydrates and sucrose, or table sugar, were associated with the diversity and composition of oral bacteria in a sample of 1,204 postmenopausal women using data from the Women’s Health Initiative in a study published in Scientific Reports, an open access journal from the publishers of Nature.
It is the first study to look at carbohydrate consumption and the subgingival microbiota in a group of only postmenopausal women. The samples used in the study were collected from subgingival plaque, which forms behind the gums, rather than salivary microorganisms.

“This is important because the oral bacteria involved in periodontal disease are primarily residing in the subgingival plaque,” said Amy Millen, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.
“Looking at measures of salivary bacteria might not tell us how oral bacteria relate to periodontal disease because we are not looking in the right environment within the mouth,” she added.

The researchers discovered a link between total carbs, glycemic load, and sucrose and Streptococcus mutans, a contributor to tooth decay and several forms of cardiovascular disease, confirming prior findings. However, they discovered previously unknown correlations between carbohydrates and the oral microbiota.

The researchers discovered that Leptotrichia spp., which has been linked to gingivitis, a common gum condition, was positively connected with sugar intake in several trials. According to Millen, the other bacteria they detected as being connected with carbohydrate intake or glycemic load had not previously been recognised as contributing to periodontal disease in the literature or in this cohort of women.

“We examined these bacteria in relation to usual carbohydrate consumption in postmenopausal women across a wide variety of carbohydrate types: total carbohydrate intake, fiber intake, disaccharide intake, to simple sugar intake,” Millen said. “No other study had examined the oral bacteria in relation to such a broad array of carbohydrate types in one cohort. We also looked at associations with glycemic load, which is not well studied in relation to the oral microbiome.” The key question now is what all of this means for overall health, which is not as clear.

“As more studies are conducted looking at the oral microbiome using similar sequencing techniques and progression or development of periodontal disease over time, we might begin to make better inferences about how diet relates to the oral microbiome and periodontal disease,” Millen said.


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