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CWRU researchers find obesity in young adults is linked to dental diseases

Case Western Reserve University : 05 February, 2007  (Technical Article)
There's one more reason why young adults should trade in potato chips and television for a more active life. Case Western Reserve University researchers in epidemiology and dentistry have found a link between obesity and periodontal disease. They have discovered that obese young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 have twice the rate of gum disease than middle and older-aged adults.
Findings from the study, 'Obesity and Periodontal Disease in Young, Middle and Older Adults,' were reported in the May issue of the Journal of Periodontology, the official publication of the American Academy of Periodontology.

'Promotion of healthy nutrition and adequate physical activity may help reducing prevalence of obesity and periodontal disease,' says Mohammad S. Al-Zahrani, the study's lead author and a graduate of the CWRU School of Dentistry, department of periodontics. Al-Zahrani worked with co-author Elaine A. Borawski from the CWRU department of epidemiology and Nabil F. Bissada, chair of the department of periodontics at the CWRU School of Dentistry.

The researchers noted that studies in Japan found an obese segment of the Japanese population had a high rate of periodontal disease, and they wondered if that was true of a similar segment of overweight Americans.

They examined 13,665 people in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III that was conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics between 1988-1994. Since the survey, the number of obese Americans has increased.

Obesity was derived by using body mass index and waist circumference based on the cutoff guidelines of National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes and the World Health Organization. That information was correlated with such factors as gender, race, education, poverty index, smoking, diabetes and time lapsed from the last dental visit.

Forty-two percent of the survey's respondents were young adults (18-34 years old); 42.4 percent, middle-aged adults (35-59 years); and 15.2 percent, older adults (60-90 years). Fifty-one percent of the people studied were females.

Among the respondents, 14 percent had periodontal disease at one or more sites in their mouths. Overall, 8 percent of young, 17 percent of middle-aged and 20 percent of older adults had the disease.

When factoring for weight and periodontal disease, Al-Zahrani said, 'The prevalence of periodontal disease is 76 percent higher among young obese individuals than in young but normal weight ones.'

'Our findings support in general the findings of obesity and periodontal disease in the Japanese population,' Al-Zahrani added.

Periodontal disease concerns dentists and physicians, said Bissada, because of its links to heart diseases, diabetes and premature births, adding to other known health risks of high blood pressure, heart disease and breathing and sleeping problem for overweight youth and early death for some 300,000 over-weight young adults each year.
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