Nutrition Can Curb Tooth Loss in
Elderly By Rosalie Marion Bliss
December 6, 2002
Scientists funded by the Agricultural Research Service have found
strong evidence that tooth loss in the elderly can be minimized if people get
their recommended dietary allowance of calcium and vitamin D.
About 33 percent of the U.S. population aged 65 and older have
no teeth, according to "Oral Health in America: A
Report of the Surgeon General," issued in 2000. The recommended daily
intake for dietary calcium is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams (mg). For dietary
vitamin D, 400 to 600 international units (IU) are recommended daily.
The scientists work in the Calcium and Bone Metabolism
Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human
Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass.
Lead researcher Elizabeth A.
Krall worked with scientists at the Veterans Affairs Healthcare System and
They looked at 145 healthy volunteers older than 65 who
completed a 3-year, randomized, placebo-controlled trial, as well as a 2-year
follow-up after discontinuation of the study's supplements. Teeth were counted
twice: after 18 months, and again after 5 years. During the course of the
randomized study, 13 percent of those who took the supplements lost one or more
teeth, but more than twice that number (27 percent) in the placebo group lost
teeth in the same time period.
What's more, during the two-year follow-up, those who consumed
more than 1,000 mg of calcium daily had half the risk of tooth loss as those
who consumed less than 1,000 mg.
Tooth loss imposes psychological, social and physical impairment
on those affected. While more studies are needed to confirm these findings, the
implications may lead to an expanded array of treatments and greater emphasis
on nutrition education.