Periodontitis and Omega-3

A few years ago, after I started taking about 3 tablespoons/day of flaxseed oil, my dentist told me my gums were much healthier. They were less red, more pink. Friends and blog readers who took flaxseed oil in similar amounts noticed the same thing. Tyler Cowen’s gums improved so much he no longer needed gum surgery.

An epidemiological study in the November Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports correlations between omega-3 intake and periodontitis (an extreme form of inflamed gums). The more omega-3, the less periodontitis. I’m sure that sufficient omega-3 intake cures periodontitis so this study has methodological interest for me. One interesting point is that the study reached a correct conclusion — contrary to the nihilism of John Ioannidis. Another is that the correlations were weak. The risk of periodontitis was only 20% lower in the group (quintile?) with the highest omega-3 intake. Although there were 9000 subjects, there was no significant correlation with linolenic acid, the form of omega-3 found in flaxseed oil.

Thanks to Sean Curley.

6 Responses to “Periodontitis and Omega-3”

  1. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Seth, do you have a theory as to why the correlations were weak, and why no effect from linoleic acid?

  2. jeff borsato Says:

    this issue has been brought up before, its difficult to refer to fish oil or any sort of “omega 3″ oil in general terms.

    general label “fish oil”
    col liver oil
    fermented cod liver oil
    cod liver with K2
    wild salmon oil
    flax
    flax/fish blends

    all could react differently in tests and could deliver different results depending more on the existing diet (ie: noticeable effects when omega 6 ratio is brought back to balance vs. none if diet remains)

    we would really need to see a differnt approach to these omega 3 studies.

  3. Robert Says:

    Seth,

    I would be interested to know what you eat over the course of the day to put this in context. Still one meal plus 2 fruits and oil? What does your meal consist of usually?

  4. Seth Roberts Says:

    Alex, the correlations were weak and no effect was found for linolenic acid because (a) there are many sources of error (such as dietary recall, measurement of omega-3 in foods, etc.) and (b) the range was small. People in the highest group didn’t consume that much, compared to what I consumed.

    Robert, I eat one ordinary low-carb meal (no rice, no potatoes, no bread, no noodles) plus 2 servings of yogurt with walnuts plus 1/2 stick of butter plus 2 tablespoons flaxseed oil.

    Jeff, my finding that flaxseed oil quickly improved how well my brain worked can be a bioassay for omega-3: a way to compare different sources by seeing how effective they are inside the body. I intend to compare flaxseed oil with ground flaxseed, for example.

  5. Erik Says:

    I had a similar experience. I had badly bleeding gums – even just brushing (not flossing) would cause bleeding. It would be red when I spit out, not just pink. I started taking cod liver oil (Carlson’s) – 1 teaspoon per day. Originally I started taking it for general health, not thinking there would be any relation to the health of my gums. What I subsequently noticed was that the bleeding gums almost completely disappeared. That plus flossing regularly (every other day) seems to have eliminated the problem completely for me.

  6. Brendan Says:

    Seth, why do you take flaxseed instead of cod liver oil. Just a pointer to a previous post or short answer if you have time. Thanks for the great blog.

    BC