Hops may help fight dental diseases

By - Bad Breath Expert

SUMMARY:  Discarded hop leaves could be used to help prevent dental maladies.

Posted: February 3, 2015

Hops, a primary ingredient used in beermaking, may not seem like it could provide any oral health benefits. However, a new study published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry suggests that an unused part of the plant during the brewing process may be able to help ward off gum disease and cavities. The hop leaves, also known as bracts, contain plaque-fighting antioxidant compounds called polyphenols, which prevent bacteria from sticking to the surface of teeth.

The study 
According to an ACS press release, farmers harvest about 30,000 tons of hops in the U.S. alone each year. These mass quantities are primarily used to develop aromatic and bitter flavors in beer. With the craft beer industry surging, hops are in incredibly high demand, but the bracts are discarded. Research conducted by a team of Japanese scientists points out that hop leaves could potentially be "repurposed for dental applications."

The researchers used chromatography in order to identify polyphenols and related compounds in the bracts. Using this technique, the team found three new compounds as well as 20 additional known ones that have not been previously reported in hops. Furthermore, the team found high amounts of other healthful antioxidants called proanthocyanidins. Sorting out exactly what the hop leaves consist of will be an integral part of deciding if they can be reused for oral care. 

In the meantime, there should be no mistaking a daily pint as a way to protect your teeth. While beer is being increasingly studied, and like wine, has proved to have a wide range of health benefits, the polyphenols are found in the bracts rather than the hops themselves. Therefore, quaffing an India pale ale may be a great way to spend an outdoor summer evening, but it won't defend against bacteria. However, there are plenty of other foods and drinks loaded with these healthy compounds, including cranberries and green tea. 

Yet, this research is still remarkably important even in its initial stages. In general, people often focus on the foods that may damage teeth rather than those that strengthen them. Learning to include teeth-friendly foods as part of a balanced diet may begin to play a role in overall oral heath care. Of course, nothing will ever replace daily regimen of brushing, flossing and mouthwash, as well as regular trips to the dentist's office. But to truly make oral hygiene a lifelong priority, it must be attacked on all fronts. 

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