Raisins May Help Fight Cavities

June 8, 2005

Study: Phytochemicals Can Suppress Oral Bacteria

WASHINGTON – They may be sweet and sticky but raisins contain compounds that suppress bacteria responsible for cavities and gum disease, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

While the researchers have not shown that people who eat raisins have healthier mouths, they identified five compounds known as phytochemicals in raisins that can be beneficial for teeth and gums.

"Raisins are perceived as sweet and sticky and any food that contains sugar and is sticky is assumed to cause cavities," Christine Wu of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry said in a statement. "But our study suggests the contrary. Phytochemicals in raisins may benefit oral health by fighting bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease," said Wu, whose work was funded by the California Raisin Marketing Board.

"Foods that are sticky do not necessarily cause tooth decay; it is mainly the added sugar (sucrose) that contributes to the problem."

Wu's team found five compounds in Thompson seedless raisins that might help make teeth and gums healthier — oleanolic acid, oleanolic aldehyde, betulin, betulinic acid and 5-(hydroxymethyl)-2-furfural. All are phytochemicals — antioxidants found in plants, Wu told a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta.

Oleanolic acid slowed growth of a bacteria that causes cavities and another that causes periodontal disease. The acid also stopped bacteria from sticking to surfaces, which prevents them from forming plaque.



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