Natural Foods Merchandiser

Science Beat by Healthnotes Inc.

Whole-grain foods are good for gums
Fiber-rich, heart-healthy whole grains have now earned a reputation for promoting oral health. In the first study of its kind, researchers have found that eating plenty of whole grains decreases the risk of developing a serious gum disease called periodontitis.

The disease, which is an advanced form of gingivitis, causes the breakdown of gum tissue and underlying bone. Untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. Bacterial plaque is the culprit in periodontitis, causing chronic inflammation of the gums and pockets of infection to form around the teeth.

Tooth loss isn't the only—or the worst—consequence of periodontitis. Severe periodontitis increases the chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke, as it leads to inflammation in the arteries and makes it easier for blood clots to form. Pregnant women with periodontitis are also far more likely to give birth prematurely than are women with healthy gums.

While poor oral hygiene contributes to the disease, other factors like tobacco use, genetics, pregnancy, stress and poor nutrition are linked to periodontitis. Diabetics also have an increased risk of periodontitis. Studies have shown that people with poor blood-sugar control have more inflammation. Because whole grains help stabilize blood sugar and control inflammation, the authors of the study aimed to determine if eating more whole grains might decrease periodontitis risk.

More than 34,000 men between the ages of 40 and 75 took part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, the results of which were reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Over a 14-year period, the men gave details about their dietary habits, including how much and how often they ate different whole-grain foods. Men who ate the most whole grains had a 23 percent lower chance of developing periodontitis than did those who ate the least. For every 1-gram-per-day increase in the amount of whole grains they ate, the risk of periodontitis went down by 6 percent.

The researchers concluded that eating four or more servings of whole-grain foods per day without increasing total calories may reduce periodontitis risk.


Cinnamon lowers high blood sugar
Diabetics might be able to reduce their blood sugar by using a cinnamon extract, a new study has found. The number of people being diagnosed with adult-onset (type 2) diabetes has grown to about 150 million people worldwide, with more than 17 million in the United States. People with diabetes have high blood sugar levels because their cells don't respond to insulin, the hormone that signals when glucose (the form sugar takes in the blood) needs to be stored. Over time, the extra glucose in the blood damages tissues.

Eating a high-fiber, low-sugar diet and exercising are important ways to keep blood-glucose levels normal. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is an aromatic herb with sweet and warming qualities. Animal studies and preliminary studies in humans have suggested that cinnamon has blood glucose-lowering effects that could help people with type 2 diabetes.

In the latest study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, 65 people with diabetes being treated only with diet or oral medications (not insulin) were given either a cinnamon extract (equivalent to 3 grams of cinnamon per day) or a placebo for four months.

Fasting blood-glucose levels dropped 10 percent in those who used the cinnamon, but did not change in the placebo group. Blood-glucose levels decreased the most in those who had the highest levels at the beginning of the study.

Researchers recommended further studies to clarify whether cinnamon works well enough to be used as a first-line treatment, along with diet and exercise, or whether it should be used in conjunction with oral medications. In the meantime, cinnamon is a safe and inexpensive addition to a program designed to help manage high blood sugar from diabetes.


Kimberly Beauchamp, N.D., cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, R.I., and is a doula. Maureen Williams, N.D., has a private practice in Quechee, Vt., and works with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras.
Copyright © 2006 Healthnotes Inc.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 10/p. 113

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