People with higher blood levels of vitamin D may be less
likely to develop gum disease, a new study suggests.
Using data from a national U.S. health survey, researchers
found that teenagers and adults with the highest blood levels
of vitamin D were 20 percent less likely than those with
the lowest levels to show signs of gingivitis -- a milder
form of gum disease in which the gums become swollen and
It's too soon, though, to start soaking up the sun or popping
vitamin D for the sake of your gums, according to the study's
lead author, Dr. Thomas Dietrich of Boston University's
Goldman School of Dental Medicine.
The study can only show that there's an association between
vitamin D status and gum health, and not that the vitamin
is bestowing the benefit, he stated.
But, he said, he and his colleagues are now conducting
an intervention study to see whether vitamin D does indeed
affect a person's susceptibility to gingivitis.
The current study, published in the American Journal of
Clinical Nutrition, is based on data from 6,700 Americans
who took part in a federal health study between 1988 and
When the researchers broke participants into five groups
based on their blood levels of vitamin D, they found that
as vitamin levels rose, the risk of gingivitis inched downward.
The group with the highest vitamin D levels was 20 percent
less likely to have signs of gingivitis than the group with
the lowest levels-even with factors such as age and income
taken into account.
Vitamin D is probably best known for its role in calcium
absorption and bone health. But recent research has suggested
that it also helps maintain a healthy immune system and
may fight inflammation.
It's this anti-inflammatory benefit that may explain the
vitamin's link to healthier gums, Dietrich and his colleagues
speculate. Gingivitis arises when bacteria build up between
the teeth and gums, leading to inflammation and bleeding.
It is possible that vitamin D does not directly affect
gum disease risk, but is instead a marker of general health
habits, according to the researchers. Vitamin D levels depend
in large part on sun exposure, and people with higher levels
may, for instance, spend more time exercising outdoors.
These same people may be especially careful about brushing
and flossing, the researchers point out.
Still, Dietrich said he thinks the vitamin D question is
an "exciting area of research," and ongoing studies should
show whether the vitamin does the gums good.
- More information on vitamins in our Vitamin
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on vitamin D
SOURCE: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September