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Red-Wine Compound May Be Good for the Gums, Study Finds

Resveratrol reduced the amount of gingivitis-related bacteria by up to 60 percent in lab tests

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: May 22, 2006

While the taste of red wine may put a smile on your face, its chemical makeup may help keep it there, according to research from Canada.

A team of researchers in Quebec tested the effect of resveratrol, a polyphenol found in red wine, on mouse immune cells infected with two types of bacteria that cause gingivitis and, later, periodontal disease. They found that resveratrol helped prevent the reproduction and spread of the bacteria and also reduced tissue inflammation, a symptom of gingivitis. The results are slated to be published in the August issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

The researchers chose resveratrol based on previous studies that found the compound to be a potent antioxidant. The bacteria they tested in the study, A. actinomycetemcomitans and F. nucleatum, are known oxidants. These bacteria can flourish inside the mouth if inadequately treated, breaking down gum tissue, eroding enamel and even weakening the jaw bones, which, in extreme cases, eventually leads to tooth loss.

The research team exposed mouse cells colonized by the bacteria to various levels of resveratrol, incubated them for 24 hours and then remeasured the amount of the bacteria.

Even small treatments of resveratrol inhibited the growth of the bacteria, according to the study, but it was at the highest level tested that the compound really made its mark. At a concentration of 100 micrograms per milliliter, resveratrol reduced one type of bacteria by 40 percent and the other by 60 percent, compared with untreated cell samples.

The scientists repeated the experiments three times, with similar results. They also found that resveratrol performed better than Trolox, a synthetic antioxidant.

The results, however, can not yet be extrapolated to humans, according to study coauthor Fatiha Chandad, a dentistry researcher at the Université Laval. After more studies on animal models, the team plans to test topical applications of resveratrol to measure its potential to kill oral bacteria and reduce inflammation.

Chandad warned against attempting do-it-yourself dentistry by slugging back a bottle of Bordeaux. "We know that acids and alcohol in red wine could have an effect on tooth erosion," she said, adding that more research is needed to determine the appropriate concentration of resveratrol "to get the beneficial effect and not negatively affect enamel or oral tissues."

While this study appears to be the first to deal with resveratrol and tooth health, other studies have found that resveratrol has numerous potential health benefits, including contributing to lower cholesterol levels, alleviating some lung diseases, fighting certain types of cancer and reducing the growth of skin melanomas and damage caused by sunburn.

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