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LE Magazine September 2008
Reports

Disease Prevention Begins in the Mouth

By Dale Kiefer

Nutritional Support for the Gums

Nutritional Support for the Gums

In addition to brushing and/or rinsing with botanical-fortified dentifrices (preparations for cleaning the teeth), supplementation with vitamin C may also help support gingival health. Vitamin C is crucial for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue, such as the gums. In fact, one of the clinical signs of scurvy, the disease associated with vitamin C deficiency, is bleeding gums.44 (Vitamin C should not be applied to the teeth topically as ascorbic acid may erode enamel.)

The B vitamin, folic acid promotes gingival health by reducing redness and bleeding of these delicate tissues.17

Vitamin D is also important for oral health.45 Since many people do not generate adequate levels of the “sunshine hormone,” supplementation with vitamin D may be necessary to help ensure gum health.

Power of Pomegranate

Pomegranate is currently finding important applications in the field of dental health. Clinical studies have shown that this popular antioxidant superstar attacks the causes of tooth decay at the biochemical level, with remarkable vigor.12,46-49 When used regularly in combination with toothpaste that has been reinforced with bioactive botanical extracts and CoQ10, pomegranate-containing mouthwash may fight dental plaque and tartar formation by inhibiting the activities of the microorganisms that cause plaque. Additionally, pomegranate compounds possess anti-inflammatory properties that may help soothe irritated tissues.50,51

Pomegranate gets to the root of the problem by literally hitting bacteria where they live. Fascinating research shows that pomegranate extract suppresses the ability of these microorganisms to adhere to the surface of the tooth.12 The trick is to inhibit a common species of Streptococcus, preventing it from producing chemicals that create favorable conditions for fungi and other microorganisms to thrive. Plaque may involve four or more different microorganisms combining forces to colonize the surface of the teeth. Remarkably, nature’s own pomegranate fights the organisms’ ability to adhere by interfering with production of the very chemicals the bacteria use as “glue.”52

In fact, a recent study conducted by Brazilian researchers showed that pomegranate extract was more effective against the adherence of biofilm microorganisms than a pharmaceutical antifungal, when three or four microorganisms were involved.12 The results of this study suggest that “this phytotherapeutic agent might be used in the control of adherence of different microorganisms in the oral cavity,” concluded researchers.12

A study conducted at the Human Nutrition Center at Ohio State University in 2007 examined the effects of using a mouthwash containing pomegranate extract on the risk of gingivitis.53 Investigators noted that pomegranate’s active components, including polyphenolic flavonoids (e.g., punicalagins and ellagic acid), are believed to prevent gingivitis through a number of mechanisms including reduction of oxidative stress in the oral cavity,54-56 direct antioxidant activity; anti-inflammatory effects;57,58 antibacterial activity;59 and direct removal of plaque from the teeth.47 They also noted that a published pilot study has already shown that pomegranate extract can reduce the clinical signs of chronic periodontitis.46

For the Ohio State study, researchers recruited 32 healthy young men and women, who were randomly assigned to rinse with pomegranate mouthwash, or placebo, three times daily for four weeks. Subjects were instructed to rinse for five minutes per rinse. Saliva samples were evaluated for a variety of indicators related to gingivitis and periodontitis. Subjects rinsing with pomegranate solution experienced a reduction in saliva total protein content,53 which is normally higher among people with gingivitis60 and may correlate with plaque-forming bacterial content.61

Pomegranate-treated subjects also experienced significant decreases in the salivary activity of the enzyme aspartate aminotransferase. This enzyme is considered a reliable indicator of cell injury and is elevated among patients with periodontitis.62 Pomegranate rinsing also lowered saliva activities of alpha-glucosidase, an enzyme that breaks down sucrose (sugar),63 while it increased activities of ceruloplasmin, an antioxidant enzyme.64 “The pomegranate extract-induced increase in ceruloplasmin activity can be expected to strengthen antioxidant defenses,” noted investigators. Subjects who rinsed with placebo solution did not experience any of these changes.53 Taken together, researchers concluded that these changes in saliva content indicated that routine rinsing with a pomegranate mouthwash, “…could promote oral health, including affecting processes related to gingivitis.”53

Fighting Lethal Inflammation in Gum Disease

The human mouth is home to literally billions of bacteria that are constantly seeking to invade more deeply into our tissues. In order to keep the “bugs” at bay, our bodies fight back using a host of immune defenses such as white blood cells65 and inflammatory signaling molecules called cytokines66 that increase blood flow and the delivery of oxygen to help in the fight.

When the inflammatory process gets out of hand, or if the germs begin to win the battle, trouble follows closely. And because our gums are so amply supplied with blood flow, both the by-products of inflammation and even the bacteria themselves can rapidly enter the bloodstream, setting the stage for disaster.

Gum Disease and Cardiovascular Health—Vital New Data

Poor dental health results in deadly inflammation that not only leads to tooth decay and gum disease, but also triggers inflammatory changes in blood vessels throughout the body, contributing to atherosclerosis and its deadly consequences. Researchers have found that a number of inflammatory markers help link gum disease and atherosclerosis.

A recent review of the literature showed that patients with gum disease and elevated markers of systemic bacterial exposure were nearly twice as likely to have cardiovascular disease compared with those who did not have gum disease.18

In another study, Swedish researchers found that twice as many patients with gum disease had atherosclerotic plaques than healthy patients. In addition, patients with gum disease had much higher levels of leukotrienes (lipid-derived inflammatory mediators) in their gum fluid compared with healthy patients.

Furthermore, patients with atherosclerotic plaques had higher leukotriene levels in their gum fluid than those without plaques.67

And, disturbingly, for the first time, researchers have actually found germs from diseased gums to be living inside atherosclerotic plaques, confirming that inflammation-causing oral bacteria are involved in atherosclerosis.68

Gum disease also contributes to dangerous lipid profiles.69 Levels of very-low density lipoproteins (VLDL), one of the most dangerous forms of blood lipids, have been found to be prevalent in patients with severe gum disease.

CoQ10—Powerful Gum Disease Prevention and Whole-Body Protection

Fortunately, scientists have discovered that a tiny molecule that looks after your heart can also provide powerful protection for gum health.9,32

A plethora of studies have uncovered the benefits of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) in offsetting the inflammation that accompanies gum disease and its adverse effects throughout the body. These studies have reached a number of important conclusions:

  • People with inflammatory diseases of the gums almost always have lower CoQ10 activities,33,41,70-72 suggesting that either topical or systemic antioxidant supplements might help suppress the effects of inflammation.

  • Patients with gum disease frequently also have CoQ10 deficiencies in their white blood cells, which probably indicates a “systemic nutritional imbalance.”73

  • In patients with gum disease, CoQ10 treatment reduces bleeding and bacterial activity at gum sites subjected to standard periodontal treatment compared with non-CoQ10-treated sites.9

  • CoQ10 treatment produces significant clinical improvement in periodontal disease,32,74 while reducing the long-term likelihood of tooth loss.40

  • An antioxidant nutrient mix containing CoQ10 reverses the effects of experimentally induced oxidant stress in human bone-forming cells taken from gum tissue.75 This nutrient mix also stimulates the synthesis of a powerful hormone that restores natural bone formation in gum tissue.75

These findings have tremendous implications for the retention of normal teeth as well as in the prevention of the total-body effects of gum disease. The weight of all of this evidence points to CoQ10 as a potent means of intervening in the oxidation-inflammation-oxidation cycle that we now know underlies so much of the spectrum of age-related chronic illness.

Coenzyme Q10 can help promote gum health both when used as a dietary supplement and when applied locally to gum tissues. Supplemental CoQ10’s gum health benefits may begin at a dosage of 50 mg/day,32 though many individuals may choose higher doses to address their unique health concerns.

Double-Pronged Attack on Plaque

Double-Pronged Attack on Plaque

Commercial toothpastes rely largely on mechanical abrasion to remove the sticky film on teeth that, left unchecked, develops into plaque. Over time, plaque provides the perfect environment for the erosion of tooth enamel, leading to cavities. Mouthwashes may contain antibacterial compounds, flavorings, and other cosmetically appealing ingredients, but, until now, none have included the power of pomegranate.

Fortunately, pomegranate extract suppresses the activity of various oral bacteria and fungi, which join forces to cause tooth decay. When combined with toothpaste formulated with bioactive compounds, such as green tea leaf extract, aloe vera gel, CoQ10, lactoferrin, folic acid, and xylitol, this powerful dentifrice duo actively fights the root causes of plaque and gum disease.

Conclusion

Good oral hygiene is not simply a matter of maintaining appearances. In the absence of vigilant oral care, plaque and tartar will build up, resulting in gingivitis and possibly progressing to periodontitis. And periodontitis has been associated with increased risks of conditions ranging from heart disease to stroke and even pancreatic cancer. By harnessing natural bioactive components, such as pomegranate, green tea, CoQ10, lactoferrin, aloe vera, folic acid, and xylitol, these modern dentifrices have improved the odds of winning the battle against dental degradation and related systemic illnesses.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Health Advisor at 1-800-226-2370.

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