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Weight Increase May Affect Gum Health
May 22, 2014

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - A three-year Japanese study of college students has linked an increase in weight with an increased risk of gum disease.

The study included 224 non-smoking college students. They were weighed at the beginning and end of the study, and researchers examined their mouths.

Students who gained weight during the study were likely to have poorer gum health after three years than students who did not gain weight. Weight gain was measured by body-mass index, or BMI. BMI is a number calculated using a person's weight and height.

The researchers also found that students who had worse gum health after three years tended to brush less frequently than other students. They also were less likely to use dental floss.

Some earlier studies have linked increased BMI with poor gum health. Other long-term studies have found varying results. A 4-year Finnish study followed 396 non-smoking adults and did not find that increases in BMI were linked with worsening gum health.

However, a Japanese study followed about 800 adults for 4 to 5 years. Researchers saw links between BMI and gum health in overweight and obese women and in overweight men, but not in obese men. A BMI between 25.1 and 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or above is considered obese.

How BMI and periodontal disease could be linked is still in question. Animal studies have shown that obesity puts stress on the gums and can upset the body's immune system. Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection. So the body's ability to fight it could be affected by any condition that affects the immune response.

In the current Japanese study, only five people were obese. Researchers note that their sample size limited the conclusions they could make. They did point out that brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day were important for gum health, and should be encouraged in young people.

The study appears in the May issue of the Journal of Clinical Periodontology.

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