Animal Study Suggests Link Between Obesity and Gum Disease | Health, Medicine and Fitness

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Robert Preidt

MONDAY, December 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) – It’s likely a link few have considered, but new research in mice suggests obesity may increase the risk of gum disease.

In particular, chronic inflammation caused by obesity can trigger the development of cells called osteoclasts, which break down bone tissue – including the alveolar bone that holds teeth in place.

“Although there is a clear link between levels of obesity and periodontal disease (gum disease), the mechanisms that underpin the links between these diseases have not been fully understood,” said researcher Dr. Keith Kirkwood, professor of oral biology at the University of Buffalo’s School of Dental Medicine.

For the new study, he and his colleagues fed two groups of mice with very different diets for 16 weeks. One group received a low-fat diet with 10% energy from fat, while the other group received a high-fat diet with 45% energy from fat.

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Compared to the low-fat group, mice on high-fat diets had more obesity, inflammation, and greater increases in immune cells known as myeloid suppressor cells (MDSCs). These develop into different types of cells in the bone marrow and spleen, including osteoclasts.

Mice in the high-fat group had higher levels of osteoclasts, lost more bone that holds teeth in place, and had much higher expression of 27 genes associated with osteoclast formation.

The results were recently published in the Journal of Dental Research.

They suggest that the expansion of MDSCs during obesity may contribute to increased bone destruction in periodontal disease, said Kyuhwan Kwack, a postdoctoral fellow on the study team.

“These data support the view that obesity increases the risk of periodontal bone loss,” said Kwack.

Bone loss is a major symptom of gum disease and can ultimately lead to tooth loss. Gum disease affects more than 47% of adults aged 30 and over, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kirkwood said the results could also provide new insights into the mechanisms of other chronic inflammatory bone-related diseases that can be associated with obesity, such as arthritis and osteoporosis.

The American Academy of Periodontology has more about gum disease.

SOURCE: University at Buffalo, press release, December 12, 2021

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