Raisins A Natural Cavity Fighter?

Just as they may be used some day as an alternative to sodium nitrite, phytochemicals contained in raisins can also fight the spread of bacteria that causes gum disease and cavities.

Researchers identified five phytochemicals in Thompson seedless raisins:

  • Oleanolic acid
  • Oleanolic aldehyde
  • Betulin
  • Betulinic acid
  • 5-(hydroxymethyl)-2-furfural

Of that group, oleanolic acid, oleanolic aldehyde and 5-(hydroxymethyl)-2-furfural inhibited the growth of two species of oral bacteria: Streptococcus mutans (cavities) and Porphyromonas gingivalis (periodontal disease). The compounds were effective against the bacteria at concentrations ranging from 200-1,000 micrograms per milliliter.

Oleanolic acid also blocked the ability of S. mutans to stick to surfaces, which allows bacteria to form dental plaque, the sticky biofilm that accumulates on teeth. After a sugary meal, these bacteria release acids that erode tooth enamel.

A couple of important caveats to remember:

  • Raisins contain fructose, which can be every bit as dangerous as regular table sugar since it will also cause a major increase in your insulin levels. Eating small amounts of whole fruit, however, won't provide tremendous amounts of fructose and should not be a problem for most people.
  • Don't expect any protective benefits from eating cereals with raisins, as the added sugar contributes to tooth decay, not to mention the obesity epidemic.

EurekAlert June 7, 2005

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