Research links processed starch to dental decay
A recent review commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) has shown that a diet rich in wholegrain carbohydrates is less likely to negatively impact oral health than a diet high in processed carbohydrates.
The findings come from a review of 33 papers on starch and oral health, conducted by researchers at Newcastle University, UK. The analysed papers were studies of foods containing rapidly digestible starches, such as white bread, or slowly digestible starches, such as whole grains, and these foods’ relationships with dental decay, oral cancer and gum disease.
The researchers found that there was no evidence to suggest an association between the amount of starch eaten and dental decay. However, rapidly digestible starches were linked to an increased risk of dental cavities, since amylase, a component of saliva, is able to break these starches down into sugars.
Further findings from the review suggest that slowly digestible starches might offer protection against gum disease and lead to a lower risk of oral cancer. However, these findings are based on fewer available studies and weaker data.
Lead researcher Dr Paula Moynihan, Professor of Nutrition and Oral Health at Newcastle University said: “Despite an ill-advised fashion for eliminating carbohydrates from the diet, a carbohydrate-rich diet is shown to be fine for oral health so long as it is low in sugars and is based on wholegrain varieties of carbs such as pasta, couscous and wholemeal bread”.
The WHO is in the process of updating its guidance regarding carbohydrate consumption.