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Cranberries may help fight tooth decay

  |   Nov. 25, 2010 at 12:59 AM
ROCHESTER, N.Y., Nov. 25 (UPI) -- A U.S. dental researcher suggests sugars don't attack tooth enamel -- but feed the bacteria that do.

Dr. Hyun "Michel" Koo at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York state explains the battle for oral health is the fight against microbes such as S. mutans that feast on sugars and starch-derived carbohydrates -- stick to the teeth -- and manufacture acid that eats away at tooth enamel.

However, Koo -- a dentist, microbiologist and food scientist -- is looking for "good" foods that fight these microbes.

"Natural substances offer tremendous possibilities for stopping tooth decay," Koo says in a statement. "Our time spent in the laboratory is aimed at harnessing the potential of some of these compounds, perhaps eventually incorporating them into a toothpaste or mouth rinse to stop dental decay."

Koo says the sticky white stuff on our teeth -- a "fortress" made up of molecules called glucans -- gives bacteria safe haven to grow and make acid. However, that co-star of the Thanksgiving table -- cranberries -- contain compounds that disrupt glucans, while not killing bacteria outright, disrupts their safe haven.

The researchers have isolated cranberry compounds -- proanthocyanidins -- that reduced glucan production by 70 percent and cavity production in rats by 45 percent.

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