The high levels of sugar contained in fizzy sodas and 'junk food' - and the effect that this has on oral health - may be an important additional mechanism for increased risks of heart disease, warn researchers.
Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, experts warned that poor oral hygiene coupled with excess sugar consumption can lead to periodontal disease, in which the resulting chronic infection from gum disease can trigger an inflammatory response that leads to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Led by senior author Dr Ahmed Rashid from the University of Cambridge, UK, the team noted that most researchers recognise junk food consumption is associated with premature heart disease, adding that the "general consensus is that this relationship can be explained by the saturated fats in these foods increasing obesity, diabetes and hyperlipidaemia risk and the high salt content raising blood pressure."
"However, an emerging body of evidence has now demonstrated an association between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk," they said. "As well as having high levels of saturated fat and salt, junk foods often contain a great deal of sugar and the effect this has on oral health may be an important additional mechanism by which junk food elevates risk of CVD."
"Reducing sugar consumption and managing dental problems early could help prevent heart problems later in life."
Despite this convincing evidence linking poor oral health to premature heart disease, most guidance on the prevention of CVD at population level - especially that in the UK - mentions the reduction of sugar only indirectly, said the authors.
"Among different types of junk food, soft drinks have raised particular concerns and are the main source of free sugar for many individuals," Rashid added.
Despite this, fizzy drinks and sugar-rich drinks are widely available in public areas including those in hospitals and schools, they pointed out.
Source: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine
Volume 106, Number 12, Pages 472-473, doi: 10.1177/0141076813512297
"Junk food and heart disease: the missing tooth"
Authors: Amardeep Bains, Mohammed Ahmed Rashid