Periodontal Disease & Obesity: A Surprising Link

Periodontal bacteria may play a role in obesity and its comorbid conditions, according to a study in Clinical Oral Investigations.

The study, released earlier this year, found that Fusobacterium nucleatum, a pathogen that connects oral disease with such conditions as colorectal cancer and pre-term births, also incites an increase in visfatin production. The study authors also concluded that periodontal ligament cells produce visfatin, making this potential oral-systemic connection even more pertinent.

Visfatin (also known as Nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase) is associated with obesity in particular because it is expressed by visceral fat. It has been linked to many obesity-associated diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and cardiovascular disease.

While much research has been done since the discovery of visfatin, its specific role in disease progression is still uncertain. It is thought, however, to mimic the effects of insulin, and according to a study in Cardiovascular Diabetology, may play a role in regulating the inflammatory and immune processes.

It has been well documented that periodontal disease and diabetes have a bi-directional relationship. And while further research is needed to fully understand the role of periodontal disease and visfatin in the obesity-diabetes relationship, it is clear that this study will be a significant point of reference for future studies.

In the midst of the current “diabesity” epidemic, it has never been more important to manage all the potential factors that can contribute to increased costs and complications of these diseases. Medical and dental professionals alike can take studies like this as yet another reason to monitor bacterial load in saliva and keep known periodontal pathogens like F. nucleatum off the table for patients.

Source: Regulation of visfatin by microbial and biomechanical signals in PDL cells.