Omega-3 may combat mouth bacteria, boost oral health

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Omega-3 fatty acids, Eicosapentaenoic acid, Omega-3 fatty acid

The dental health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids may include anti-bacterial effects, extending the benefits beyond inflammation, says a new study from the University of Kentucky.

Omega-3 fatty acids of marine and plant origin were found to have strong anti-bacterial activity against a range of oral pathogens, according to findings published in Molecular Oral Microbiology.

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.

“To date, this is the first study to demonstrate the significant antibacterial activity of omega-3 fatty acids and their esters against oral pathogens,”​ wrote Dr Brad Huang and Dr Jeff Ebersole from the Center for Oral Health Research at U of K’s College of Dentistry.

Talking to NutraIngredients, lead author Dr Huang said: “Most Omega-3 studies on oral health have been focused on the inflammation part; for some reason, the anti-bacterial activity has not mentioned or ignored, including a recent Japanese study. (To read NutraIngredients’ coverage of the Japanese please click here​.)

“On the contrary, 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,” ​added Dr Huang.

The new study looked at the effects of EPA, DHA, ALA and their fatty acid ethyl esters, ALAEE, EPAEE, DHAEE on a range of oral pathogens. All the omega-3 compounds studies were found to exhibit strong antibacterial activity.

The study, sponsored by the US National Institutes of Health, found that all six compounds showed cent 50 per cent inhibitory activity for concentrations ranging from 1 to 10 micrograms per millilitre.

“Although our data support the ​in vitro effect, the ​in vivo effects would still need to be empirically determined,”​ wrote the researchers. “However, EPA and ALA had a much stronger antibacterial activity than DHA ​in vitro so it is expected that EPA and ALA will have stronger in vivo effects than DHA.”

Dr Huang confirmed that work in this area was ongoing and expanding. “We currently plan to explore this new activity and will try to translate this into products, such as chewing gum.

“Of course, we plan to study and answer those questions about the optimal dosages, pharmacokinetics, the delivery into the oral cavity, and what kind of in vivo dosage/effect to expect, and so on,”​ he added.

Bitesize look at omega-3 for oral health

Talking to NutraIngredients, Harry Rice, PhD, director, regulatory & scientific affairs for the omega-3 trade association GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s) said that the study of resolvins and protectins, which are metabolites of EPA and DHA, is much more advanced than the study of EPA and DHA.

“I think it's worth separating the two groups (resolvins and protectins) versus (EPA and DHA) because of their classification as (pharmaceuticals) versus (foods and supplements) respectively. The majority of research on oral health (i.e. gingivitis and periodontitis) and the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, has been conducted in animals or ​in vitro.

“The science is promising and in time, I believe it will become more developed,” ​added Dr Rice.

Source: Molecular Oral Microbiology
Volume 25 Issue 1, Pages 75 – 80
“A novel bioactivity of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and their ester derivatives”
Authors: C.B. Huang, J.L. Ebersole

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