(NaturalNews) The obesity epidemic may be linked to high worldwide rates of gum disease, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Boston University and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers wrapped a material that had been infused with P. gingivalis, a bacteria that causes gum disease, around the gums of both obese mice and mice of normal weight. They found that the obese mice had more bone loss than the leaner mice, indicating a more severe form of gum disease. They also had higher levels of P. gingivalis in their mouths, and lower levels of certain immune system chemicals that the body produces to help fight off infections.
"These data indicate that obesity interferes with the ability of the immune system to appropriately respond to P. gingivalis infection," the researchers wrote. They noted that the generalized immune system suppression seen in the obese mice might indicate that obese people are more vulnerable to bacterial infections in general than people of healthier weight.
Periodontal disease is incredibly common, affecting approximately 40 percent of adults around the world.
"The importance of the current findings is underscored by the facts that millions of people worldwide are affected by this infection every year," the researchers said, "and the universal prevalence of obesity has reached epidemic proportions."
Another recent study may also link gum disease to obesity. Researchers at the School of Dental Sciences at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom have discovered a connection between Type 2 diabetes, which is often correlated with obesity, and severe forms of gum disease.
"We found that periodontal disease was often of the more aggressive form in patients with diabetes," researcher John Taylor said. "It is possible that obesity may be compromising the immune response, leading to increased susceptibility to periodontal disease."