Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Are vegetarians at risk for oral disease?

When I was young my grandparents would say that I should drink my milk to get strong teeth and bones. They also said I should eat my carrots so I can see better in the dark. Well, I just love carrots. Raw and cooked, steamed, bake, in a stir fry, any which way you can think of even as an ice cream flavour. Even my dogs get some carrots as treats (only when they are sweet). I also make homemade dog treats for them wherein carrots are a critical element.

Getting off topic here (blushing). My point is that I cannot see better in the dark and weary of driving after dusk.

So, why would my grandparents be right about drinking milk for healthy teeth and bones? And what is the cost to our dental and oral health if we do not drink milk or eat meat as vegetarians?

A recent study by some unknown experts revealed that a diet rich in meat and dairy produce can boost your overall oral, dental and gum health. Apparently there is a common amino acid called L-arginine, naturally found in certain of these non-vegetarian foods that break down the plaque in our mouths.

These so called experts have found that this particular amino acid which is found in copious amounts in red meat, fish, dairy products and poultry, inhibits the formation of plaque in your mouth and on dental cavities.

Dentist in Ceturion

These researchers from the University of Michigan and Newcastle University believe and hope that their findings could help potentially millions of people avoid getting gum disease and tooth cavities. Many dental products that help with teeth sensitivity already have this amino acid added to the products as it is thought to prevent or help dental hypersensitivity.

Bacteria like to cumulate on the different surfaces such as your teeth to form biofilms. Dental plaque is a biofilm. According to assistant professor Alexander Rickard biofilms account for more than 50 per cent of all hospital infections and contributes to the billions of dollars of dental treatments and office visits every year in the United States.

His colleague from Newcastle University, Nick Jakubovics says that the amino acid L-arginine can interrupt this biofilm, dental plaque formation.

Here is an informative video animation illustrating how biofilm is formed:


To come back to our initial question: Are vegetarians at risk for oral disease because of lack of the L-arginine amino acid in their diet.

To answer bluntly: No

Why? Although you can count on a high amount of this amino acid available in animal protein-rich foods such as pork, beef, turkey, chicken, fish including tuna, trout and salmon and dairy products, it is also available in plant-based foods.

Plant-based foods providing arginine includes soybeans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, peanuts and walnuts. If you have a diet rich in sweet green peppers and spirulina, the seaweed then you'll get arginine in naturally as well. Grains like quinoa, oats and wheat germ also contains it, just like cereals made from oats, rice and wheat.