Why Vegetarians May Have to Work Harder to Maintain Good Oral Health

While reviewing the website www.knowyourteeth.com sponsored by the Academy of General Dentistry I came across an article highlighting oral health concerns dentists carry for their vegetarian patients. Many dentists ask their patients about their diet, and find those that are vegetarian tend to be very knowledgeable about nutrition. The concerns however, tend to be directed towards children on vegetarian diets that may be lacking essential nutrients, and with adults that also may be lacking essentials needed for proper tooth and gum health.

According to Dr. Ludwig Leibsohn, some vegetarians, particularly those who do not consume any food of animal origin, can experience deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 or complete proteins. Studies show that by eating the right amount of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes, they can get the nutrients they need. “An adult on a vegetarian diet for a prolonged period can be at increased risk for periodontal (gum) disease from a lack of vitamin D and calcium,” says Dr. Leibsohn. To reduce this problem, Dr. Leibsohn suggests that vegetarians seek counsel from a nutritionists and take a multi-vitamin daily.

Another concern for vegetarians is their potential lack of Vitamin D. Teeth can become more susceptible to decay and periodontal disease with a lack of Vitamin D. Although Vitamin D is produced with sun exposure, if one is out of the sun often and not consuming any in their diet there is a possibility of a deficiency. According to Dr. Leibsohn, adding vegetable margarines or soy milk to one’s diet will solve this problem.

In conclusion, it’s important to have an open line of communication as a patient with your dentist and any other doctor’s you see. If we have all the information, it allows us to better asses your health conditions as a whole and suggest any additional care needed.

Read the article for yourself here:
Dentists Should Advise Vegetarians on Good Oral Health

Fruits and Vegetables: Organic vs Conventional

While watching my morning news today, CNN presented a brief story on which fruits and veggies you should buy organic vs. conventional.  If you read my last post, Foods for Cancer Prevention, you’d find that numerous research studies indicate the best food to eat for cancer prevention are fruits and vegetables.  So, when eating them, when should you buy organic, and when conventional?  The recommendation, at least for the TV segment was simple…

If you want to go organic to avoid the pesticides, invest in the fruits and vegetables that you consume the skin when eating.  For instance bell peppers, grapes, raspberries, apples, celery.  If you want to go conventional, the safest fruits and vegetables to go this route are the food items whose skin is removed prior to consumption.  Like bananas, avacados, mangoes, onions and grapefruit.

Back in June of 2010 CNN posted an online article listing the “Dirty Dozen,” twelve fruits and vegetables containing 47 to 67 pesticides per serving!  The top twelve are more prone to carrying the pesticides because of their soft skin that absorb it.  So for these twelve, if you’re looking to avoid those pesticides, definitely go organic.

The Dirty Dozen
Domestic blueberries
Sweet bell peppers
Spinach, kale and collard greens
Imported grapes

In the same article, they also listed “The Clean 15″.

The Clean 15
Sweet corn
Sweet peas
Kiwi fruit
Sweet potatoes
Sweet onions

Pesticides are chemical substances used by farmers to protect their crops from diseases, pests and weeds. The government says pesticides in small amounts are not harmful. However, many studies have linked pesticides to weakened immune systems, cancer, ADHD and nervous system disorders.

It’s also important to note that pesticides aren’t necessarily washed off by water (although I’d still give them a good rinse and scrub down). And although peeling away the skin does usually make a substantial difference, there are pesticides within some fruits and vegetables because it is in the soil used to grow them, and the pesticides are taken up through the roots into the plants. The best way to avoid all this? Go organic… at least with the dirty dozen.

CNN Article “Dirty Dozen”

Foods for Cancer Prevention

This month’s JADA had an interesting article titled, Diet and prevention of oral cancer. It is stated that more than 400,000 cases of oral and pharyngeal cancer occur annually worldwide. The American Cancer Society suggests that “one-third of the more than 500,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States each year can be attributed to die and physical activity habits including overweight and obesity.” Investigators of this study set out to find which foods can protect you from cancer, and which increase your risks.

Simply put, cancer is thought to be initiated by cellular damage. So when setting out to find a diet geared towards cancer prevention, the goal is to find foods that may protect DNA from mutation or damage. So what did researchers find?

–There is much evidence of a protective role of vegetables and fruits, particularly citrus fruits, in the prevention of oral cancer.

–A high intake of fruits and vegetables are not only protective again oral and pharyngeal cancer, but have also been found to protect against cancer of other sites including esophagus, breast, prostate, lung, bladder and colon.

–Consumption of salted meat, processed meat and animal fat increases the risk of developing oral cancer.

–High consumption of dairy products is a risk factor for head and neck squamous cell cancers.

–Use of dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive compounds) in the absence of deficiencies does not provide the same benefits as eating fresh fruits and vegetables and should therefore not be a substitute for them.

Also included in the study were additional recommendations for cancer prevention:

Body Fat: be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.
Physical Activity: be physically active as part of everyday life
Foods and drinks that promote weight gain: limit consumption of energy-dense foods and sugary drinks.
Plant Foods: eat mostly foods of plant origin.
Animal Foods: limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
Preservation, processing, and preparation: limit consumption of salt; avoid moldy cereals (grains) and pulses (legumes).
Dietary Supplements: aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone; dietary supplements are not recommended for cancer prevention.
Breastfeeding: mothers should breastfeed and children should be breastfed.
Cancer Survivors: follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.

Dentists should be preforming oral cancer screenings on their patients at least once a year. If your dentist hasn’t mentioned this to you, perhaps you should ask him/her if they’ve checked you recently. This is particularly important for those individuals with a higher risk or oral and pharyngeal cancer development, including current or previous tobacco users, those who consume alcohol, betel nut or gutka; those with existing premalignant lesions or with a history of head and neck or upper aerodigest tract cancers.

Is this study stating you should cut out all the meat, salt, sugar and dairy? No. But I doubt our parents knew just how right they were when they told us to eat our fruits and vegetables!

See the study for yourself here:
Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer