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DHA omega-3 linked to ‘significantly improved periodontal outcomes’: Harvard data

By Stephen DANIELLS , 14-Jul-2014
Last updated the 14-Jul-2014 at 20:36 GMT

Scientists from Harvard report that supplementation with DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) omega-3 may improve periodontal outcomes in people with periodontitis.

Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that destroys the soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth. It is reportedly the second most common disease worldwide, with 30–50% of the US population suffering from it.

Data published in the Journal of Dental Research indicated that DHA supplementation was associated with a decreased the average depth of the pockets between the teeth and the gums, and the gingival index, which is used to assess the extent of gum disease.

In addition, inflammatory biomarkers in the gum tissue were significantly reduced, report scientists from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Forsyth Institute, and Harvard School of Public.

Dental benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to potential dental health benefits by previous studies. The potential decrease in the risk of dental diseases associated with omega-3s has been linked to the potential anti-inflammatory effects of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

In what was claimed to be the first longitudinal study investigating periodontal disease and omega-3 intake in older people, Japanese researchers reported that the average number of dental disease events was 1.5 times higher in people with low DHA levels, compared to those with the highest average levels of DHA (Nutrition, 2010, Vol. 26, pp. 1105-1109).

Beyond the potential anti-inflammatory effects, the first study to demonstrate potential antibacterial activity of omega-3 against oral pathogens was reported by Dr Brad Huang and Dr Jeff Ebersole from the Center for Oral Health Research at University of Kentucky’s College of Dentistry.

Findings published in Molecular Oral Microbiology (Vol. 25, pp. 75-80) indicated that EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), as well as their fatty acid ethyl esters could inhibit the growth of oral pathogens, including Streptococcus mutans, Candida albicans, and Porphyromonas ginigivalis at relatively low doses.

Talking to NutraIngredients-USA at the time of his paper’s publication, Dr Huang said that the anti-bacterial activity of omega-3 fatty acids have, in general, been ignored, and added: “The the anti-bacterial part of the omega-3 fatty acids could be very important.

“Certainly, it could be a potential new use of omega-3 fatty acids as the nutraceuticals in the future.”

Harvard data

Asghar Naqvi, MD, and his co-workers recruited 55 adults with moderate periodontitis to participate in their double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel trial. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 2,000 mg per day of DHA or placebo (soy/corn oil) for three months. All of the participants also received 81 mg per day of aspirin.

Results showed that, for the 46 adults who completed the trial, DHA levels in red blood cell membranes increased between 3.6% to 6.2%, whereas no such increases were observed in the placebo group.

In addition to the improvements in pocket depth and gingival index, the researchers reported that levels of the inflammatory biomarkers C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-1 beta (IL-1beta) decreased significantly in the DHA group. Systemic CRP levels did not decrease significantly, however.

“In this randomized controlled trial, aspirin-triggered DHA supplementation significantly improved periodontal outcomes in people with periodontitis, indicating its potential therapeutic efficacy,” concluded Dr Naqvi and his co-workers.

Source: Journal of Dental Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1177/0022034514541125
“Docosahexaenoic Acid and Periodontitis in Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial”
Authors: A.Z. Naqvi, H. Hasturk, L. Mu, R.S. Phillips et al. 

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