A new study in the July 2011 issue of the Journal of Dental Research indicates that saturated fatty acid may actually contribute to periodontal disease.
Gum Disease and Saturated Fatty Acid
Saturated fatty acid (SFA) is typically found in butter, milk, meat fats and certain oils and can cause some inflammation when consumed. Inflammation is one of the key factors in periodontal disease, particularly as the gums tend to swell up and become infected. Researchers found that those who consumed more SFA had more of a tendency toward gum disease, with the highest level of risk on those who consumed the most SFA. The negative dental effects of SFA appeared not to affect smokers, though smoking is still extremely detrimental to many other aspects of oral health.
About the Study
The research team analyzed information from a study of 265 people who were 75 years old and examined both their dental and dietary information. They divided smokers and nonsmokers and then separated them into categories based on their average saturated fatty acid intake. From there they studied the rate of periodontal disease in each sub-group while accounting for frequency of dental visits, education, income, gender and body mass index. Researchers found that those who consumed a lot of saturated fatty acid had almost twice the risk of periodontal disease as those who consumed little or no saturated fatty acid.
Some have posed questions about the validity of the results since they studied such a narrow age range and was monitored over a relatively short period of time with limited information. A Dr. Bicuspid article explains:
The investigators admit in their report that restricting their study subjects to only those ages 75 or 76 makes it difficult to extrapolate the findings to older or younger people. However, they suggest that limiting the study period to one year may have led to an underestimation of the effect of higher SFA intake on the development of periodontal disease.
However, saturated fatty acid can still be detrimental to a person’s overall health for other reasons, so it may nevertheless be beneficial to cut down SFA intake.