The Peculiar Paradox of Potatoes, Periodontal Disease & Diabetes

by | Jan 13, 2016 | Diet & Nutrition, Oral Health, Periodontal Health

potatoWhether you bake, boil, roast or fry them, potatoes are the most eaten vegetable in the United States. (Tomatoes come in a distant second.)

It might be that the ruddy spud, wholesome in appearance, cheap to eat, is a perfect medium. Butter, bacon, cheese, sour cream, applesauce, mayo – you name it, we glob it on. No matter how we slice, dice, or mash, we love to see potatoes on our plate.

But is loving them good for us? Not so much, says a recent study in Diabetes Care.

Analyzing data from more than 70,000 women and 40,000 men, its authors found that a higher consumption of potatoes significantly raised the risk of type 2 diabetes, independent of BMI and other risk factors. While all types of potatoes raised risk, French fries were the worst.

Issues of Inflammation

Importantly, the diet that fuels type 2 diabetes also fuels periodontal disease. One study of data from nearly 3000 adults found that 93% of those with periodontal disease were at high risk for diabetes.

That risk relationship is critically important. Periodontal disease is a silent disease until well advanced. Like diabetes, it’s also an inflammatory disease. In its early stages, periodontal disease may be considered a localized infection, but left undiagnosed and untreated, it has a proven link to an array of life-threatening systematic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Diet is a factor in inflammatory diseases, and carbs increase inflammation. Those potatoes we all love so much? A potato’s total carbohydrate includes all the sugar, starch and fiber found in it – about 37 grams in a medium sized russet.

That’s roughly one-third of the USDA’s recommended daily total carb intake.

And when that potato is digested, its sugar and starch break down into glucose, a/k/a, simple sugar. High levels simple sugars generate inflammation and increase glucose in the bloodstream – a process known as “meal induced inflammation.”

Carb heavy meals create oxidative stress and set up inflammatory conditions that support disease.

Biological Integration

So how do we pull potatoes, periodontal disease, diabetes and biological dentistry together?

We start with the basics. An exam. We’ ask about your health history and any concerns you may have. If we find a level of gum disease, you can expect a plan of action. We may ask questions about your diet and make recommendations to support your goals for a healthy mouth.

Since periodontal disease and diabetes are diseases of inflammation, and since a diet high in carbs increases inflammation in the body, it could be an indication that broader lifestyle changes will support healing.

The problem isn’t just the total amounts of carbs and simple sugars entering the bloodstream. A key factor is the frequency of intake. The the more often you eat them, the greater the inflammation.

As your own best healthcare advocate, your dental appointment is a powerful opportunity. It has the potential to not only improve your oral health by reducing inflammation but support a state of health throughout your body.

Image by Chris Sloan

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