Thinking about doing crossword puzzles to keep your mind sharp? Forget it. Scientists are now saying that keeping your mouth clean could help stave off Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
According to Science Advances, researchers from University of Louisville found strong evidence that Porphyromonas gingivalis — a species of oral bacteria that causes chronic gum disease — may also be involved in driving the development of AD.
The possibility of an infectious cause for AD isn’t new. Because the brains of patients with AD exhibit symptoms of inflammation that is often seen in infections, scientists have suspected for some time that infectious agents could be involved somehow.
However, it wasn’t until now that researchers were able to find evidence that something like bacteria could cause AD.
In the study, the scientists compared the brains and spinal fluids of deceased people who had characteristic pathology of AD but no diagnosis (control group) to those who had a clinical diagnosis.
In the AD brains and spinal fluids, the researchers found P. gingivalis DNA as well as higher levels of toxic enzymes called gingipains compared to the control group. Gingipains are produced by P. gingivalis and work to suppress the host’s defense system, thereby helping the infection to spread and damage surrounding cells.
The team also found strong relationships between levels of gingipains and two other molecules: tau, a protein important for normal brain function, and ubiquitin, a small protein that tags damaged proteins for degradation. Both have been linked to AD.
Previous studies had found links between P. gingivalis and AD, but scientists weren’t sure if the gum disease was just a consequence of the disease. However, with this finding, they realized that the infection is an early-stage event, and believe that if the people in the control group had lived longer to allow for the gingipains to accumulate, they also would have developed AD.
The researchers then infected the mouths of otherwise healthy mice with P. gingivalis every other day for 6 weeks. They found that the bacteria not only invaded the brains of all the mice, but also caused a significant increase in the levels of amyloid beta, a component of the amyloid plaques found in brains of patients with AD and killed certain nerve cells.
Since P. gingivalis is resistant to most antibiotics, the team wanted to test the effects of compounds that target gingipains instead. In the mice that received the treatments, they noticed that the compounds killed off much of the bacteria and had protective effects on neurons in the memory region of the brain, which is primarily affected by AD.
It is important to remember that while the research results are certainly exciting, they do not show that a P. gingivalis infection causes AD. Diseases like AD are extremely complex and can have many different causes. This research shows that P. gingivalis may just increase the risk of AD.
The researchers also didn’t determine the strains of P. gingivalis they found in the brain and spinal fluid. More research would be needed to determine if certain strains are more likely to cause AD.
What Can You Do?
P. gingivalis can also be found in low levels in healthy people, who can get it from common activities such as brushing, flossing, and getting dental procedures.
However, we believe there is one important thing you can do to reduce your risk of an infection, and that is to clean your tongue.
Your tongue is the habitat of a large variety of plaque-forming and disease-causing microorganisms, including P. gingivalis.
Research has shown that the most effective way to clean your tongue is to use a tongue scraper. When used over time, tongue scraping can reduce the number of bacteria on your tongue, leading not only to better breath, but also possibly reducing your risk of AD.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your Tongue Scraper today from ScrapeYourTongue.com. Your future self will thank you.