TUESDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Eating even moderate
amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, typically found in foods such as
salmon and other fatty fish, may help ward off gum disease, new
Researchers divided nearly 9,200 adults aged 20 and up
participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination
Survey between 1999 and 2004 into three groups based on their
consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Consumption was assessed by
asking participants to recall exactly what they'd eaten during the
prior 24 hours.
Dental exams showed participants in the middle and upper third
for omega-3 fatty acid consumption were between 23 percent and 30
percent less likely to have gum disease than those who consumed the
least amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Specifically, the researchers found that the omega-3 fatty acids
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) were
associated with less gum disease. The association with linolenic
acid (LNA) was not statistically significant.
"Eating a very feasible amount of fatty fish seems to have a lot of benefit," said senior study author Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "But we found no benefits to eating tons of this stuff."
Since the study was a snapshot of a single day's diet, Mukamal
said researchers could not determine exactly how much fish oil
people should consume regularly. But following guidelines from
major organizations such as the American Heart Association, which
recommends eating fatty fish at least twice a week, is probably a
good idea, not just for gum disease but for overall health, they
"There are a lot of benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. We have good evidence they prevent sudden death caused by heart rhythm disturbances. We have some evidence omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke," Mukamal said. "This is a great example of another potential benefit."
In the study, researchers took into account other factors that
could affect the likelihood of having gum disease, such as age,
income, education and other health and socioeconomic factors.
The study is published in the November issue of the
Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Periodontitis is a chronic inflammation of the gums caused by
bacteria that accumulate around the gum line, according to
background information in the study. Over time, the gum tissue can
recede and separate from teeth, leading to "periodontal pockets,"
or spaces between the gums and the teeth, and loss of the bone that
provides the supporting structure for the teeth.
About 54 percent of men and 46 percent of women over age 30 in
the United States experience gingival bleeding, the earliest sign
of periodontal disease, according to background information in an
In the general population, about 11 percent of adults aged 50 to
64 have moderate or severe periodontitis, rising to 20 percent of
those over age 75. In the study, about 8.2 percent of participants
The usual treatment of periodontitis is good dental hygiene,
including manually removing bacteria during dental appointments and
applying local antibiotics to kill the bacteria, though there is
disagreement among dentists about how well local antibiotics
In an accompanying commentary, Elizabeth Krall Kaye, a professor
in the department of health policy and health services research at
Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, said
the study supports incorporating fatty fish into one's diet, but
not necessarily fish oil supplements.
"The study is interesting in that they studied a large population, and they saw some benefit just from consuming moderate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids," Kaye said.
Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, mackerel
and swordfish, along with some nuts and seeds such as walnuts and
American Heart Association has more on omega-3