What’s the biggest reason most people have trouble managing their weight?
Is it: eating junk food. Eating too much in general. Not exercising enough. Bad genetics. Poor gut health. Too much mental stress? All of the above?
It could be one of these reasons, all of them or none of them. Perhaps it’s another factor that’s worth exploring: oral health.
Could the reason why you’re inexplicably gaining weight or having trouble losing it is that you’re not flossing or brushing enough?
The answer is unequivocally yes. That’s because an overgrowth of bacteria in your mouth triggers inflammation. And not just in your oral cavity; the inflammation can migrate to distant organs, including the heart and brain.
But when it comes to weight gain, is there any proof that inflammation of the gums is associated with it?
Research Links Oral Health To Weight Gain
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, there is indeed. In a meta analysis of five studies involving over 42,000 subjects, those subjects who presented with obesity are who became overweight during the study period were more likely to have periodontitis, which is irreversible, and the more advanced form of gingivitis, which itself develops because of harmful bacteria on the teeth and gums.
The study wasn’t rock solid; the research made an association rather than establishing definitive causation. But the study does give food for thought to the importance of diligently and religiously brushing and flossing after every single meal, not just at night before bed.
In another research study titled, “Is Obesity An Oral Bacteria Disease,” published in the Journal of Dental Research, the co-authors mention in the introduction that over 700 species of bacteria reside in the human mouth.
Firmicutes Aren’t So Cute
The researchers measured the salivary bacterial populations of 313 overweight women, targeting 40 bacterial species. In general, the overweight people in the study showed a higher concentration of firmicutes. Firmicutes are the bacterial bad guys, responsible for raising blood sugar levels, retarding fat metabolism and creating greater resistance to insulin. Higher levels of firmicutes are associated with metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
You’ve no doubt heard about the gut microbiome. Well, your mouth has a microbiome, too, and it’s arguably just as important for your overall health as the gut microbiome. (Usually, if you have a healthy gut, you’ll have a healthy oral microbiome and vice versa.)
Firmicutes are one of six major phyla, or categories of bacteria in the oral microbiome. Obviously, if firmicutes are responsible for causing obesity, you don’t want too many of the critters freeloading in your mouth.
The Relationship Between Weight Gain And Oral Bacteria
Going back to the article from Journal of Dental Research, the co-authors write, “The reasons for a relationship between obesity and oral bacteria are undoubtedly complex and varied.”
True, the relationship could be merely coincidental or circumstantial, and depends more on what you eat rather than how obsessive-compulsive of a flosser and tooth-brusher you are. But maybe weight gain is caused by systemic inflammation in your body, which may very well be tied to less than obsessive-compulsive oral hygiene.
But what is clear, say the researchers is that “it is clear that the parallel microbiological universe that travels with man changes as man changes, and appears to be affected by a tendency to gain weight.”
Perhaps this is just another way of saying you are what you eat. But the more laser focused takeaway is that merely brushing morning and night and flossing before bed may not be enough. If you eat four times a day, then floss four times a day.
How Does Oral Bacteria Cause Weight Gain?
Researchers think there are three ways in which a compromised oral microbiome contributes to weight gain.
First, a preponderance of harmful bacteria such as firmicutes species may reduce metabolic efficiency.
Consequently, even if you’re eating the same food as always and not doing any less exercise, if you do happen to eat just a tiny bit more, this could result in weight gain. Just a caloric increase of 100 calories per day would add approximately 10 pounds of fat per year, the researchers from the Journal of Dental Research point out.
The second hypothesis for oral bacteria and weight gain is increased appetite. Bad bacteria has an insatiable appetite for sugar. Consequently, leptin, the so-called “hunger hormone” is activated. In essence, harmful bacteria are telling you to eat more. And unfortunately, the signal they’re sending isn’t, “Eat more kale!”
Finally, the third reason oral microbes may make you fatter is by facilitating insulin resistance. If you’re keeping score at home, this is caused by increasing levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which triggers inflammation. Another way harmful bacteria in the mouth causes your pancreas to secrete more insulin than may be necessary is by reducing levels of adiponectin. Adiponectin is a fat cell hormone that regulates glucose metabolism.
Brush and floss after every meal. And use a natural mouthwash to kill harmful bacteria.