Evidence suggests food preservatives may help prevent cavities

Preservatives commonly found in diet soda, frozen foods, juices, and many other foods appear to help prevent cavities, dental researchers said this weekend at the annual meeting of the International Association of Dental Research.

The surprising message comes from researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center, which is home to one of the world's leading programs in dental research. William Bowen, D.D.S., Ph.D., Welcher Professor of Dental Research and a member of the Institute of Medicine, presented findings which demonstrate that common preservatives such as benzoates and sorbates appear to enhance the cavity-protecting action of fluoride.

"This is a serendipitous benefit of our diet today," says Bowen. "But you can't rely on serendipity to protect your teeth. There may be a more structured way to take advantage of this, such as putting these preservatives into toothpaste. In the meantime, people would do best to avoid high-sugar foods, including most soft drinks, and maintain good brushing habits."

The recent work picks up on a series of studies by another Rochester team led by microbiologist Robert Marquis, Ph.D., who has shown that, in the test tube, many preservatives seem to mimic fluoride. Bowen took Marquis' research one step further, conducting studies in rats of the effects of fluoride and food preservatives. Rats get cavities almost exactly like humans do, and the same substances that prevent cavities in rats stop them in humans.

In one study the team measured the number of cavities in rats from several groups: some received fluoride, some received benzoates, some received neither, and some received both.

Across the board, animals who had fluoride in their diets had far fewer cavities than those that did not. But fluoride's protective effect was especially strong in animals that also received benzoates. Rats that received neither fluoride nor benzoate had an average of a

Contact: Tom Rickey
University of Rochester

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