Periodontal Disease Is An Independent Predictor of Diabetes

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar. Diabetes can be caused by too little insulin, resistance to insulin, or both.
 
To understand diabetes, it is important to first understand the normal process by which food is broken down and used by the body for energy. Several things happen when food is digested:
 
A sugar called glucose enters the bloodstream. Glucose is a source of fuel for the body.
An organ called the pancreas makes insulin. The role of insulin is to move glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat, and liver cells, where it can be used as fuel.
 
People with diabetes have high blood sugar because their body cannot move sugar into fat, liver, and muscle cells to be stored for energy. This is because either:
 
Their pancreas does not make enough insulin
Their cells do not respond to insulin normally
Both of the above
 
Periodontal disease may be an independent predictor of incident Type 2 diabetes, according to a study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. While diabetes has long been believed to be a risk factor for periodontal infections, this is the first study exploring whether the reverse might also be true, that is, if periodontal infections can contribute to the development of diabetes. The full study findings are published in the July 2008 issue of Diabetes Care. 
 
The Mailman School of Public Health researchers studied over 9,000 participants without diabetes from a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population, 817 of whom went on to develop diabetes. They then compared the risk of developing diabetes over the next 20 years between people with varying degrees of periodontal disease and found that individuals with elevated levels of periodontal disease were nearly twice as likely to become diabetic in that 20 year timeframe. These findings remained after extensive multivariable adjustment for potential confounders including, but not limited to, age, smoking, obesity, hypertension, and dietary patterns. 
 
"These data add a new twist to the association and suggest that periodontal disease may be there before diabetes," said Ryan T. Demmer, PhD, MPH, associate research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and lead author. "We found that over two decades of follow-up, individuals who had periodontal disease were more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life when compared to individuals without periodontal disease." 
 
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