By Dr. Asghar Naqvi, researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for Charge Up For Good Health
Salmon is one of my favorite foods; I eat it a couple of times a week. As a doctor, I know that fish is good for my heart -- lots of studies have shown that it can reduce your chance of dying from a sudden heart attack, lower your bad cholesterol levels and improve your blood pressure. But it wasn't until about a year ago that I learned it might have an unexpected bonus: Healthy teeth and a better smile.
While in medical school, I wanted to explore the connection between nutrition and chronic diseases. I was thinking about writing a paper on heart disease, but many of my ideas had already been covered in other studies. Then my advisor suggested I look into periodontitis, a fancy name for gum disease. That turned out to be a great idea!
In my study, I compared the diet records of more than 9,000 adults to their history of gum disease. I was surprised to find that, after making adjustments for age and other factors, the participants who consumed the most DHA (a kind of omega-3 fatty acid) in their diet had a 22-percent less chance of developing gum disease than those who consumed the least DHA. Taking omega-3 supplements didn't seem to make a difference either way, but that may be because of how my study was designed. I'm now starting more rigorous research on patients with gum disease to see whether taking omega-3 supplements will help improve their oral health.
In the meantime, I can you tell this: I found that the same amount of fish that's great for gums is about what the American Heart Association recommends -- 3 1/2 ounces worth of fatty fish like salmon, trout, sardines or albacore tuna twice a week. So if you're consuming omega-3s in order to improve your heart health (and I highly recommend you do), you could come away with a little something extra for your smile.
Dr. Asghar Naqvi is a researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Brookline, Mass. He is funded by Beth Israel and Harvard Medical School.
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