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Could oral bacteria be causing obesity? Maybe... and a trial now recruiting in the Boston area will check it out

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www.ProHealth.com • August 13, 2009


A large clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health will examine whether specific types of oral bacteria predispose individuals to obesity.

Periodontal disease is a well-established inflammatory condition caused by bacteria. Of further interest is the possibility that oral bacteria may actually participate in the pathology that leads to obesity.

“The problem is often referred to as an ‘obesity epidemic,’ and now there is some reason to believe that obesity might literally be contagious,” notes Forsyth Institute Director of Clinical Research J. Max Goodson, DDS, PhD, whose recent study in The Journal of Dental Research(1) found that among a group of 313 middle-aged women, those who were overweight were 98 percent more likely to harbor an oral bacterium known as Selenomonas noxia.

This possibility will be explored further as part of a large clinical trial sponsored by the National Institutes of Health which is investigating the role of inflammation to cardiac health.

Known as TINSAL-CVD, the trial is currently enrolling patients at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and other area hospitals and includes a sub-study to determine if oral health – specifically the health of the gums – is a source of inflammation, leading to atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease. It will also examine whether specific types of oral bacteria predispose individuals to obesity.

“There are about 700 different types of bacteria that can be found in our mouths,” explains the study’s Principal Investigator Francine Welty, MD, a cardiologist at BIDMC. “This project will help determine if there are particular types of oral bacteria associated with the development of plaque in the heart’s arteries, and with obesity.”

To learn more about this clinical trial, including how to enroll, call 617-632-7656 or email TINSAL@bidmc.harvard.edu

ABOUT THIS RESEARCH
Saliva was collected from 313 overweight women with a body mass index between 27 and 32, and bacterial populations were measured by DNA probe analysis. Levels in this group were compared with data from a population of 232 healthy individuals from periodontal disease studies. The results found that 98.4 percent of the overweight women could be identified by the presence of this single bacterial species (S. noxia). “It seems likely that this bacterial species could serve as a biological indicator of a developing overweight condition,” notes Goodson.
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1. Article: "Is Obesity an Oral Bacterial Disease?" by JM Goodson, et al.; Journal of Dental Research, Jun 2009. To read the full article, click here.

Source: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center news release, Aug 8, 2009




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