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News / February 18, 2010

Omega 3 inhibits oral bacteria

by Guy Hiscott

Omega-3 fatty acids of marine and plant origin have been found to have strong anti-bacterial activity against a range of oral pathogens, according to a study by Dr Brad Huang and Dr Jeff Ebersole from the Center for Oral Health Research at the University of Kentucky’s College of Dentistry.

Writing in Molecular Oral Microbiology, the authors state: ‘To date, this is the first study to demonstrate the significant antibacterial activity of omega-3 fatty acids and their esters against oral pathogen’.

The study looks at the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), as well as their fatty acid ethyl esters, which could inhibit the growth of oral pathogens, including Streptococcus mutans, Candida albicans and Porphyromonas ginigivalis, at relatively low doses.

All of the omega-3 compounds studies were found to exhibit strong antibacterial activity.

The researchers wrote: ‘Although our data support the in vitro effect, the in vivo effects would still need to be empirically determined. However, EPA and ALA had a much stronger antibacterial activity than DHA in vitro, so it is expected that EPA and ALA will have stronger in vivo effects than DHA.’

Dr Huang confirmed that work in this area was ongoing and expanding. He told ‘We currently plan to explore this new activity and will try to translate this into products, such as chewing gum.

‘Of course, we plan to study and answer those questions about the optimal dosages, pharmacokinetics, the delivery into the oral cavity, and what kind of in vivo dosage/effect to expect, and so on.’

The article, A novel bioactivity of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and their ester derivatives is published in Molecular Oral Microbiology (volume 25, issue 1, pages 75-80).