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Oral Health, Heart Disease, and Fermented Foods

Posted Mar 12 2009 3:06pm

From the abstract of a 2007 paper about oral health and heart disease:

The high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and infections of the mouth has led to the hypothesis that these disease entities [are] connected. Oral biofilms contain numerous micro-organisms with more than 700 identified species. . . .  These micro-organisms cause dental caries and periodontal disease of which the majority of humans suffer during their life. Oral bacteria are presumed to gain access to the blood circulation and are postulated to trigger systemic reactions by up-regulating a variety of cytokines and inflammatory mediators. Infection and inflammation play a role also in atherogenesis. Furthermore, traces of oral micro-organisms, such as the gram-negative anaerobic bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis, have been detected in atheroma plaques. This bacterium seems to be potentially atherogenic in animal models. Epidemiologic data have shown a statistical association between periodontal disease and coronary heart disease and stroke. In a meta-analysis, the odds ratio increase for CVD in persons with periodontal disease was almost 20%. Poor oral health also seems to be associated with all-cause mortality.

Emphasis added. As I blogged earlier, during my last trip to the dentist I was told my gums were in great shape, better than the previous visit — and the only intentional change since the previous visit was a huge increase (a factor of 50?) in how much fermented food I eat. So perhaps fermented foods improve oral health. A reason to suspect that fermented foods reduce heart disease is that Eskimos, with very low rates of heart disease, eat lots of fermented food. If both these ideas are true — fermented foods improve gum health and reduce heart disease — it would explain the observed correlation between gum disease and heart disease.

A vast number of people believe that sugar and refined flour are bad for us. In large amounts, sure, because they cause so much dysregulation (e.g., high blood sugar) and in ditto foods cause obesity. But what about average amounts? Here I’m not so sure. The shift to a diet high in sugar and refined flours has usually happened at the same time as a shift away from traditional diets. In other words, the increase in sugar and flour wasn’t the only change. I suspect there was usually a great reduction in fermented foods at the same time. Maybe the reduction in fermented foods caused the trouble rather than the increase in sugar and flour. The reduction in fermented foods is almost always ignored - for example, by Weston Price and John Yudkin (author of Sweet and Dangerous ).

Probiotics and oral health. An experiment about probiotics and oral health.

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