There are lots of benefits of fish oil, from supporting heart health to improving mental health to reducing chronic inflammation. Inflammation, of course, is a hallmark of gum disease, not to mention the ever-growing list of systemic health problems linked to it.
So it’s not exactly surprising to hear of a new study confirming a link between fish oil consumption and better gum health, but the more evidence, the better, right?
The research was presented last month at the virtual meeting of the International Association for Dental Research and involved the analysis of blood samples from 922 adults. First, the researchers determined the amount of a substance called (brace yourself) 3-carboxy-4-methyl-5-propyl-2-furanpropionic acid, or CMPF for short – basically, a biomarker for fish consumption. They then did further analysis to relate CMPF levels with gum disease diagnosis.
Men with higher levels of CMPF averaged 1.2 fewer periodontal pockets deeper than 4 mm. (A pocket is the space between the tooth and gum. A pocket deeper than 4 mm signals disease.)
Higher CMPF levels were also associated with 0.49 fewer deep pockets, 2.9% less bleeding on probing (another sign of disease), and 0.23 more teeth (tooth loss is a consequence of advanced gum disease).
But this was only seen in men, not women. However, other studies have suggested that the omega-3 fatty acids that are so abundant in fish oil are broadly supportive of good periodontal health.
In fact, studies such as this one suggest that consuming more omega-3s is one of the most important dietary changes you can make to improve gum health, even without ramping up oral hygiene. (The other? Eating fewer refined sugars and other highly processed carbs.)
While eating more fish is one way of getting more of these essential fatty acids into your diet – and a delicious one, too – mercury exposure is a concern, along with issues of sustainability. We cover this in an earlier blog post, which includes links to resources to help you make the healthiest choices when shopping.
Fish oil supplements are another option, most of which don’t taste fishy or have a fishy aftertaste at all. But if for any reason you want or need to steer clear of fish altogether, flaxseed oil can be a good alternative. You’ll miss out on a few of the benefits of fish oil, but in terms of reducing inflammation, flaxseed is similarly effective.
There are plenty of other non-fish foods that are rich in omega-3s, too, including kale, eggs, walnuts, and more. (Note: The article at that last link includes canola oil, which we don’t recommend. This post gives a nice overview of the main concerns.)
For when it comes to nutrition, we recommend getting as much as possible from whole foods you eat, using supplements as needed to fill in gaps. You get the total nutritional package that way. Besides, they’re called “supplements,” after all, not “instead-ofs.” 🙂