The Grapevine

Compound In Red Wine Could Help Fight Gum Disease, Tooth Decay

Wine lovers did not necessarily need another reason to pour themselves a glass of red. After all, the drink has already earned a place of prestige in the cellar for being able to improve cholesterol, manage diabetes and keep the brain young. Now, researchers have identified the antioxidants that make the beverage such a big hit on the health scale, can also help with oral hygiene.

The American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study which indicated that wine polyphenols help keep the gums healthy and prevent teeth decay.

Scientists at the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid studied the effects of two types of red wine polyphenols — caffeic and p-coumaric acid — on bacteria typically known to stick to gums and cause dental plaque, cavities and periodontal disease.

When used alone, these compounds manage to fend off certain types of pathogenic bacteria. The effects were more pronounced when they were combined with the Streptococcus dentisani, an oral probiotic.

While this may seem like reason enough for some of us to pour ourselves a glass, the researchers point out that gargling with wine will not do the job since the concentration of polyphenols used in the study were much more concentrated than those found in the beverage. Also wine is not the only source of the compound. It is also found in dark chocolate, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, plums, apples, beans, hazelnuts, almonds, red onions, spinach, soy, coffee and tea.

“This is interesting work done on cells outside of the body, but it is very preliminary and so one must be very cautious about extrapolating these results to any current health advice," Naveed Sattar, a professor in metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow told The Independent.

"The findings suggest some compounds called phenols should be investigated further for their roles in preventing bacteria binding to cells and causing infection but this needs much validation," he added.

Professor Damien Walmsley, scientific adviser at the British Dental Association warned drinking too much wine could have the reverse effect of weakening teeth.

"In fact, the acidic nature of wine means that consuming a lot of these drinks will damage the enamel of the teeth," he told the BBC.

"Therefore, until the benefits of this research are shown clinically, it is best to consume wine in moderation and with a meal to minimise the risk of tooth erosion," Walmsley added.

The Spanish team worked with cells that model gum tissue for their experiments and reportedly exposed the material to the polyphenols for extended periods of time, lasting up to 47 hours. Considering that none of us are going to be able to keep wine in our mouths for that long, the study’s authors suggest that if follow-up studies prove successful in confirming the effects of the compound, it could be used to create medicines to tackle oral diseases.

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