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Wednesday, 22 December, 1999, 01:09 GMT
Cheesy meals 'cut tooth decay'

mouse This mouse's diet may be good for his teeth

Mice indulging their passion for cheese could be setting themselves up for a healthy dental life, according to researchers.

And following their dietary plan could be beneficial to humans, say scientists after finding that eating meals containing cheese can help combat tooth decay.

This research suggests that calcium in cheese is helpful even if the cheese is cooked
Dr Geoff Craig
It was already thought that cubes of cheese were good for teeth, but the latest findings show that pasta in a cheese sauce, though less likely to be attractive to mice, is too.

Earlier research had shown that children and adults who enjoy sugary foods could neutralise the effect on their teeth by eating a chunk of cheese straight afterwards.

Researchers at Newcastle University dental school, led by nutrition lecturer Paula Moynihan, fed adult volunteers with pasta in cheese sauce and chicken breast filled with cheese and ham, and tested the calcium levels in their plaque.

Plaque-calcium concentrations
After cheese: Up 112%
After pasta with cheese sauce: Up 61%
After chicken with ham and cheese: Up 50%
They then compared the results with those for volunteers who ate meals without cheese and discovered the plaque-calcium concentration was much higher for those who had eaten the cheese.

Volunteers were asked not to carry out any oral hygiene for 48 hours before the study.

Calcium encourages hardening of the teeth, and discourages softening, which is the first stage in the process creating caries, or tooth decay.

While a cube of cheese increased plaque-calcium concentration by 112%, pasta with cheese sauce gave an increase of 61% and chicken with ham and cheese led to an increase of 50%.

The authors of the study, published in the British Dental Journal, said: "The critical point of this study was the finding that cooked cheese, consumed diluted as part of a mixed meal was able to stastically significantly increase plaque-calcium concentration."

They warned, however, that some meals containing cheese might have other ingredients which would reduce the ability of calcium to enter the plaque.

Dr Geoff Craig, chair of the British Dental Association's health and science policy group, said: "Calcium helps to resist decay and erosion. This research suggests that calcium in cheese is helpful even if the cheese is cooked."

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See also:
20 Jan 99 |  Health
Dental threat of snacking
08 Sep 99 |  Health
British keeping their teeth
17 May 99 |  Health
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22 Jan 99 |  Health
The end of tooth decay?
15 Jun 99 |  Health
Tooth decay 'rampant' among toddlers

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