Originally published September 1 2006
Cranberries contain possible anti-caries/anti-plaque agents (press release)
Scientists have discovered that the humble cranberry harbors several anti-oxidants (flavonoids) that show the ability to counteract the damaging effects of the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, which causes dental caries (tooth decay). Dental caries is the most common oral infectious disease that afflicts humans. More than 95% of all adults have experienced this disease. It is more common than asthma, hay fever, or chronic bronchitis in 5- to 17-year-old children. The American public spends close to $40 billion per year to treat this disease or its consequences.
Dental caries results from the interaction of specific bacteria with constituents of the diet on a susceptible tooth surface. Dental plaque accumulation is the first clinical evidence of this interaction; dental plaque is a biofilm which is comprised of a population of bacteria growing on the tooth surface enmeshed in a polysaccharide matrix. Acid can be formed rapidly by acidogenic bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, within the matrix, and its persistence results in dissolution of the tooth. Cranberries harbor a plethora of biological compounds such as flavonoids (e.g., quercetin and myricetin), phenolic acids (benzoic acid), anthocyanins, condensed tannins, among others. The researchers have shown that many of these substances can: (i) inhibit enzymes associated with the formation of the plaque polysaccharide matrix, (ii) block the adherence of bacteria to surfaces, (iii) prevent acid formation, and (iv) reduce acid tolerance of cariogenic organisms. The next step in their research is to identify the specific active constituents in cranberries that could be useful as anti-caries/anti-plaque agents.
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