Mouthwash Can Promote Diabetes: New Data to Know Now

I wonder if you appreciate your body’s ability to generate nitric oxide (NO) as much as I do? If not, you will after reading this article.NO, a small gas molecule whose discovery led to the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1989, helps us maintain a healthy body, mind and sexual performance. NO causes arteries to enjoy increased blood flow, less clotting (i.e. fewer heart attacks and strokes), and less atherosclerosis.

The main source of NO is produced in the lining of arteries, called the endothelium. NO can act right at the battlefront, where blood cells, fats, toxins and arteries interact every second of every day. Two recently discovered pathways act to boost NO production to optimal levels in addition to the amount our arteries produce. One system for NO production exists in our skin and explains why enjoying safe amounts of sunshine may lower blood pressure and enhance health. The other system is in our mouths and involves a cycle that is worth understanding:

The grooves in our tongue contain bacteria called facultative anaerobes.

· Plant foods capture nitrogen from the soil and store them as nitrates.

· Chewing leads to a mixture of the bacteria in our saliva and on our tongue with the nitrates in our plant-based foods, resulting in a conversion to nitrites.

· Nitrates can be absorbed, circulate, and enter endothelial cells in arteries, enhancing NO production. More health follows.

Do you have a daily habit that is interrupting this miraculous cycle that starts in our mouths and benefits our entire body? That habit is the use of antiseptic mouthwash, once or twice a day. It has been known for a few years that antibacterial mouthwash can block the production of NO and impact our health. For example, one study examined the effects of using an antiseptic mouthwash and demonstrated that after one week of use, nitrite levels in the blood fell and blood pressure rose 2–3 mmHg.

New data extends the concern over antiseptic mouthwash to the risk of developing pre-diabetes and diabetes. In a study called the San Juan Overweight Adults Longitudinal Study (SOALS), 945 overweight/obese individuals, aged 40–65, and free of diabetes and major cardiovascular diseases; were analyzed for their risk of developing diabetes. Many participants (43%) used mouthwash at least once daily and 22% at least twice daily. Participants using mouthwash ≥ twice daily at baseline, had a significantly elevated risk (50% higher) of pre-diabetes/diabetes compared to less frequent users or non-users. The increased risk was similar after adding income, education, oral hygiene, oral conditions, sleep breathing disorders, diet (processed meat, fruit, and vegetable intake), medications, blood sugar, and inflammatory measures of CRP to the analysis.

What are the take-home messages from knowing that nitric oxide can be produced by eating leafy green vegetables and beets if you take the time to chew slowly and thoroughly? These include:

1. Chew your food slowly and thoroughly, perhaps 20 or more times, consciously appreciating that you are improving your heart ealth.

2. Avoid antiseptic mouthwashes unless prescribed short term for an infection by your dentist. There are many agents without antiseptic agents if you feel you need one. Be sure to brush, floss and water-pik your teeth and gums.

3. If you enjoy making smoothies with green vegetables or beets (foods that can drive NO levels up), consider making what I call a “chewie” with fairly large pieces of ground leaves requiring chewing before swallowing. Practice using your blender or bullet for less time to produce larger chunks.

Like what you read? Give Joel Kahn a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.