Drink up: Wine polyphenols may improve oral health

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22 Feb 2018 --- Wine polyphenols might be good for your oral health, researchers report in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Previous research had already pointed to the heart and colon health benefits of sipping wine, which are possibly due to the beverage's abundant and structurally diverse polyphenols.

Traditionally, some health benefits of polyphenols have been attributed to the fact that these compounds are antioxidants, meaning they likely protect the body from harm caused by free radicals. 

However, recent work indicates polyphenols might also promote health by actively interacting with bacteria in the gut. That makes sense because plants and fruits produce polyphenols to ward off infection by harmful bacteria and other pathogens. 

M. Victoria Moreno-Arribas and colleagues wanted to know whether wine and grape polyphenols would also protect teeth and gums, and how this could work on a molecular level.

The researchers checked out the effect of two red wine polyphenols, as well as commercially available grape seed and red wine extracts, on bacteria that stick to teeth and gums and cause dental plaque, cavities and periodontal disease. 

Working with cells that model gum tissue, they found that the two wine polyphenols in isolation – caffeic and p-coumaric acids – were generally better than the total wine extracts at cutting back on the bacteria's ability to stick to the cells. 

When combined with the Streptococcus dentisani, which is believed to be an oral probiotic, the polyphenols were even better at fending off the pathogenic bacteria. 

The researchers also showed that metabolites formed when digestion of the polyphenols begins in the mouth might be responsible for some of these effects.

The researchers note in their study that the results, based on an in vitro model of bacterial adherence results, are very useful as an initial approach to the mechanisms of action of red wine polyphenols against oral diseases. 

“Further steps should be addressed toward the use of mixed biofilms models which can mimic bacteria–bacteria interactions as well as some other conditioning factors that should be added to multifactorial assays. Once molecular mechanisms of action become elucidated, in vivo studies of periodontal and cariogenic diseases are recommended, in order to evaluate the potential of polyphenols as preventive therapies in the management of cariogenic and periodontal diseases,” they conclude.