Ask the Dentist: Effects of vitamin D on gum disease and type 2 diabetes probed

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care, Belfast, highlights a study investigating links between vitamin D, gum disease and diabetes

Eating fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon can boost vitamin D
Lucy Stock

COULD getting more vitamin D not only help stop your teeth falling out but also help your type 2 diabetes? In a rare study of its kind, new University of Toronto research has been looking at exactly this link.

Aleksandra Zuk, a PhD candidate from the university's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, found increased odds of developing type 2 diabetes among people with gum disease who are also lacking in vitamin D3.

"We know that vitamin D is not only helpful for bone health, but is also shown to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Sufficient vitamin D levels can potentially decrease inflammation and affect oral microbes related to gum disease," said Zuk, the lead author on the study.

More people than ever are at risk of type 2 diabetes. If nothing changes, more than five million people will have diabetes in the UK by 2025. Type 2 diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where the insulin your pancreas makes can't work properly, or your pancreas can't make enough insulin. This causes blood glucose levels to remain damagingly high.

Gum disease is caused by prolonged inflammation due to mouth bacteria. People with gum disease suffer from bleeding puffy gums, bad breath and loose teeth that eventually fall out. At its worst, poorly controlled diabetes worsens gum disease. Researchers have found that half of American adults have some form of gum disease and lack vitamin D sufficiency.

Zuk hopes that by better understanding exposures, targeted treatment can be an additional line of defence against diabetes. For example, by changing the vitamin D status from low to high among adults with gum disease could affect glucose levels in people living with type 2 diabetes.

"Because it's the first study, we really need to look at these two exposures again in other studies and population. It might impact further diabetes research," said Zuk, who was supervised by Laura Rosella, an associate professor at Dalla Lana.

Vitamin D is predominantly produced in the skin from sun exposure or by eating certain foods. If you are interested in increasing your vitamin D intake try eating more:

:: Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon

:: Beef liver

:: Cheese

:: Egg yolks

:: Foods fortified with vitamin D, like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals).

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