Recent research has estimated that around 35% of all American adults and half of those age 60 or older have metabolic syndrome, a collection of risk factors—including belly fat, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides—that predispose individuals to both cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
In an effort to learn more about the etiology of metabolic syndrome, a collaboration of researchers in Brazil, New Zealand, and New York examined over 400 patients from a diabetes and hypertensive treatment center for periodontal disease and metabolic syndrome. Their results were published in the Journal of Periodontology.
They found a significant association between severe periodontitis and metabolic syndrome, after adjusting for factors such as age, gender, alcohol consumption, smoking status, and cardiovascular disease. They concluded that the high prevalence of metabolic syndrome in this group of individuals was associated with severe periodontitis.
A 2015 mouse model study in the Journal of Dental Research found that mice with metabolic syndrome had an elevated inflammatory response to the periodontal bacterium Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans than mice without metabolic syndrome. In that study, researchers suggested that metabolic syndrome enhanced the body’s reaction to periodontal bacteria via inflammatory cytokines and macrophages.
Heart disease and diabetes are two of the deadliest and costliest medical conditions that plague our society. Nearly every adult in the Western world has at least one risk factor for one or both of these conditions. That periodontal disease—itself a risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and diabetes independently—appears to have a significant link to metabolic syndrome is highly significant when it comes to managing risk for these diseases. Addressing periodontal bacteria and inflammation like the prominent risk factors they are can only help the huge portion of our population that are affected by these conditions.