The good news: The obesity epidemic seems to be easing among kids. According to data just published in JAMA, the obesity rate among 2 to 5 year olds dropped from 14% to 8% over the past 10 years.
The meh news: Add teens to the mix, and the overall youth obesity rate hasn’t changed much over the same time, dropping .1% to 17%.
As for the bad news: The obesity rate for adults has kept on climbing to now stand at 35%, with no signs of trends reversing anytime soon.
What does this have to do with dentistry? you may be wondering. For one, it may help explain soaring rates of gum disease.
For some time, dental researchers have noted a link between obesity and gum disease. Now, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Dental Research confirms that, in fact, obesity may be predictive of periodontitis.
Analyzing data from more than 250 patients who received non-surgical periodontal therapy, the researchers found that those who were obese benefitted less from therapy than others. “The magnitude of this association,” they wrote, “was similar to that of smoking.”
Consider this: Smoking is the number one risk factor for severe gum disease and associated tooth loss.
Now consider again what the scientists wrote: Obesity’s impact is comparable.
You can read more about the study here.
That said, it’s good to remember that two big things you can do about obesity – eat healthfully and exercise – both improve periodontal health, too. Add intensive hygiene – regular deep cleanings from your dentist; regular brushing, flossing and the use of tools like interproximal (proxy) brushes and oral irrigators (e.g., Waterpik) at home – and you’ve done a whole lot towards improving both your oral and overall health.
For another thing worth remembering is the increasingly well-known relationship between gum health and systemic health. One major factor linking gum disease with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis and other conditions is inflammation. Recent research confirms that obesity is inflammatory in nature, too.
In a new research report published in the December 2013 issue of The FASEB Journal, scientists show that there is an abnormal amount of an inflammatory protein called PAR2 in the abdominal fat tissue of overweight and obese humans and rats. This protein is also increased on the surfaces of human immune cells by common fatty acids in the diet. When obese rats on a diet high in sugar and fat were given a new oral drug that binds to PAR2, the inflammation-causing properties of this protein were blocked, as were other effects of the high-fat and high-sugar diet–including obesity itself.
“This important new finding links obesity and high fat high sugar diets with changes in immune cells and inflammatory status, highlighting an emerging realization that obesity is an inflammatory disease,” said David P. Fairlie, Ph.D., study author from the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, in Bribane, Australia.
While this study pushes toward a drug-based solution, drugs – fortunately – are not the only solution, nor the best. Again nutrition and exercise are the foundation. Work with a qualified naturopath or other holistic practitioner to develop a solid and reasonable strategy for supplementation and a specifically anti-inflammatory diet can further the cause, helping you give your body what it needs to properly, effectively and efficiently repair the damage wrought by chronic inflammation.
Image by Jule, via Flickr