When it comes to your health and well-being, what you eat matters, as a recent study in PLOS Medicine reminds.
The research team set out to answer two basic questions: 1) Can a healthy diet offset the effects of obesity on mortality?, and 2) Can normal weight compensate for the risks of a less healthy diet?
In this case, a healthy diet was defined as one that generally follows Mediterranean guidelines: lots of produce, nuts, beans, good fats, whole grains, and herbs, with moderate amounts of fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy, and red meat only occasionally. It’s a diet of real foods, not processed products.
Over two decades of data was collected from nearly 80,000 adults across two Swedish surveys. BMI and adherence to a healthy eating pattern were assessed, and the numbers, crunched.
Those who veered most from a Mediterranean-type diet had a higher risk of death, even when their weight was considered normal. Those who ate healthfully, on the other hand, had a lower risk of overall mortality, regardless of weight.
The one exception was cardiovascular risk, which remained elevated in overweight participants. Even so, “these results,” wrote the authors,
indicate that adherence to healthy diets such as a Mediterranean-like diet may be a more appropriate focus than avoidance of obesity for the prevention of overall mortality.
That diet makes the difference is something we’ve seen with respect to oral health, as well. Research suggests that dietary changes alone may be enough to reverse the progression of gum disease. Those changes involve drastically limiting sugar and other refined carbs, while eating foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins C and D, antioxidants, and fiber.
Notably, those changes harmonize with a Mediterranean style diet.
Other research has consistently linked obesity and gum disease. Those who are overweight have twice the risk of developing periodontal problems, while those who are obese have triple the risk. Both conditions – like others linked to gum disease, including stroke, cancer, cognitive decline, rheumatoid arthritis, and more – are also marked by chronic inflammation.
This common denominator was highlighted in research published late last year in the BDJ. As ScienceDaily reported,
Examining a plethora of existing studies, researchers found that data showing increased body mass index, waist circumference and percentage of body fat to be associated with an increased risk to develop gum disease, also known as periodontitis. Most studies analyzed data from population subsets at one point in time, as opposed to studying the same population over a longer period.
They concluded that changes in body chemistry affect metabolism, which, in turn, causes inflammation — something present in both maladies.
“Periodontal disease occurs in patients more susceptible to inflammation — who are also more susceptible to obesity,” Pinto said.
A Mediterranean diet is also widely known for being anti-inflammatory. Other diets, such as keto, paleo, or Wise Traditions, similarly increase your intake of anti-inflammatory foods while decreasing foods known to promote inflammation – foods like sugar, refined carbs, vegetable oils, trans fats, and processed meats.
Get inflammation under control, and you do a world of good – for your gums and for your whole body health.