Sunday, May 3, 2009

Paleo diet and oral health

Does anyone have access to the full paper for this one? The abstract doesn't help much

As far as I can make out it looks like there were more bacteria in the mouth but the gums got healthier.

The impact of the stone age diet on gingival conditions in the absence of oral hygiene.

Baumgartner S, Imfeld T, Schicht O, Rath C, Persson RE, Persson GR.

Laboratory of Oral Microbiology, Department of Clinical Research, School of Dental Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Background: The objective of this study was to assess the oral microbiota and clinical data in subjects without access to traditional oral hygiene methods and who ate a diet available in the Stone Age. Methods: Ten subjects living in an environment replicating the Stone Age for 4 weeks were enrolled in this study. Bleeding on probing (BOP), gingival and plaque indices, and probing depth (PD) were assessed at baseline and at 4 weeks. Microbiologic samples were collected at the mesio-buccal subgingival aspects of all teeth and from the dorsum of the tongue and were processed by checkerboard DNA-DNA hybridization methods. Results: No subject had periodontitis. Mean BOP decreased from 34.8% to 12.6% (P <0.001). Mean gingival index scores changed from 0.38 to 0.43 (not statistically significant) and mean plaque scores increased from 0.68 to 1.47 (P <0.001). PD at sites of subgingival sampling decreased (mean difference: 0.2 mm; P <0.001). At week 4, the total bacterial count was higher (P <0.001) for 24 of 74 species, including Bacteroides ureolyticus, Eikenella corrodens, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Capnocytophaga ochracea, Escherichia coli, Fusobacterium nucleatum naviforme, Haemophilus influenzae, Helicobacter pylori, Porphyromonas endodontalis, Staphylococcus aureus (two strains), Streptococcus agalactiae, Streptococcus anginosis, and Streptococcus mitis. Bacterial counts from tongue samples were higher at baseline (P <0.001) for 20 species, including Tannerella forsythia (previously T. forsythensis), Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans (previously Actinobacillus actinomycetemcomitans; serotype a), and Streptococcus spp. Conclusions: The experimental gingivitis protocol is not applicable if the diet (e.g., Stone Age) does not include refined sugars. Although plaque levels increased, BOP and PD decreased. Subgingival bacterial counts increased for several species not linked to periodontitis, whereas tongue bacterial samples decreased during the study period.


Arlo said...

I'm not very good at deciphering studies yet, but from what you said, I'm not entirely surprised.

I've been following a low-carb moving towards paleo diet for the last week and the first positive thing I noticed was my mouth. I have a couple of slightly receeded gums on my upper canines and to touch it will my nail used to cause immediate pain. Within a couple of days I can now SCRAPE it with my nail and not feel a thing (not to mention no scummy feeling on my teeth and tongue).

I mean, we have 10x the number of bacterial cells in and on our body as we have that make UP our body. Some are harmful, some helpful... some helpful that become harmful when they end up in the wrong part of the body.

So, I could totally see the beneficial bacteria having a chance to flourish in the environment they were intended to flourish in. That is, one that is mostly free of carbohydrates and simple sugars. Different bacteria eat and secrete different kinds of compounds, right?

I'd love to know more about these 74 different kinds of bacteria but I just don't have the time at the moment to google them all. :)

Robert McLeod said...


The subjects were participants of a Swiss TV show where they demoed living as 'stone age' (neolithic) people. Since it was basically uncontrolled it's tough to draw significant conclusions. A paleo-diet should improve gum health (just by increasing mouth pH) but I don't think it's been studied yet.

They did have access to wheat and other gluten grains, milk, and honey, so it was not a zero-sugar or paleolithic situation. However, they were not supplied complete calories and had to forage.

Overall plaque increased but gum inflammation dropped big-time. There's a picture of one of the participants teeth and gums: the teeth yellowed but the reddish inflammation in the gums went away (and they didn't bleed when poked). I doubt if they were gnawing on bones or some such; from the sounds of things they were on a nature preserve and not allowed to go after animals, although they had some domesticated animals to eat.

The mouth is one of the sites in which bacteria can enter the body. The diet those people ate probably increased their mouth pH and got rid of some of the more nasty bacteria in the biofilm on their teeth.

Anonymous said...

Can email study. Contact at far^beyond^sane^@^ (remove ^).