February 23, 2007
Higher antioxidant levels correlate with lower periodontitis prevalence
A report published in the March, 2007 issue of the Journal of Nutrition revealed the finding of researchers at the University of Birmingham in England and Boston University that higher serum antioxidant levels are associated with a reduction in the risk of periodontitis. Periodontitis is an inflammatory condition of the tissue surrounding the teeth which has been linked with an increase in stroke, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease.
The current study examined data from 11,480 participants in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), for whom periodontal measurements and serum levels of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, selenium, lutein, uric acid, beta-cryptoxanthin, vitamins A, C and E, bilirubin, and total antioxidant levels were available.
Fourteen percent of the subjects were found to have mild periodontitis and 5 percent had severe disease. Higher vitamin C, bilirubin, and total antioxidant levels were associated with a lower incidence of periodontitis, particularly with severe disease. Individuals whose vitamin C levels were in the top 20 percent of participants had a 39 percent lower risk of periodontitis than that of participants in the lowest fifth. For subjects who had never smoked, the risk experienced by the top fifth was half that of the lowest fifth.
Vitamin C's protective benefit against periodontitis may arise from its involvement in collagen synthesis which helps maintain the structural integrity of connective tissue. Additionally it acts as a free radical scavenger and may help reduce inflammation.
The authors remark that longitudinal studies would be necessary to determine whether periodontal therapy reduces the inflammatory burden in the peripheral vasculature and to confirm the role of antioxidant levels as risk factors for periodontal disease. They write, "If confirmed, intervention studies involving antioxidant approaches would be indicated to determine the potential for reducing the risk of periodontitis."