Natural compounds from red wine and grape seeds could help curb gum disease, new research shows.
Don’t raise your glass just yet. The study, presented in Orlando, Fla., at the 35th annual meeting of the American Association for Dental Research, doesn’t recommend drinking red wine to prevent gum disease.
The scientists didn’t douse anyone’s teeth and gums in red wine. Instead, they did lab tests pitting antioxidants from red wine and grape seeds against bacteria linked to gum disease.
The researchers included dentistry professor Daniel Grenier, PhD, of Canada’s Universite Laval in Quebec.
Antioxidants vs. Gum Disease
The antioxidants in question are called polyphenols, which are found in many plants. Food sources rich in polyphenols include onions, apples, tea, red wine, red grapes, grape juice, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and certain nuts.
Grenier’s team studied three polyphenols found in red wine or grape seeds. The scientists also focused on macrophages, which are cells of the immune system. Macrophages devour intruders, such as bacteria.
When macrophages scoop up bacteria related to gum disease, they emit nitric oxide and other chemicals, like a dump truck spewing exhaust. Those chemicals “may be involved in tissue and bone destruction,” write Grenier and colleagues.
In lab tests, the researchers exposed macrophages from mice to the polyphenols. Then, they turned those macrophages loose on bacteria linked to gum disease.
The macrophages released lower levels of their usual waste chemicals. The researchers credit the polyphenols’ “potent antioxidant properties” for the results.
By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
SOURCES: 35th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Dental Research, Orlando, Fla., March 8-11, 2006. U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Phytonutrient FAQs.” WebMD Public Information from the National Institutes of Health: “HIV Vaccine Glossary.” News release, International and American Association for Dental Research.