Health & Medicine

UK researchers testing product that can freshen breath, lower cholesterol

Lexington Herald-Leader

Who hasn't longed for a product that gives you fresh breath, a healthy mouth and — lower cholesterol?

A Texas company that recently opened a Lexington office thinks it has hit upon a winning mouthwash combination. The company's product, iClean, fights gingivitis and lowers LDL cholesterol, also known as the "bad" cholesterol.

The product is still in testing, but it might eventually be available over the counter. Learning of the product's ability to reduce LDL "was a surprise finding," said Dr. Charles Gauntt, the principal investigator for the study that first noted the connection between a healthier mouth and lower LDL cholesterol.

"The idea was, OK, let's check and make sure that it doesn't affect any inflammatory markers in the body. ... The LDL portion, yes, it lowered it significantly."

iClean is designed to be used for 30 seconds, once daily. The key ingredient in the mouthwash is a proprietary iodine formula, Gauntt said. Iodine is considered effective in inactivating viruses, bacteria and funguses.

But don't rush out looking for iodine-rich products thinking you'll get the same benefit. Gauntt said the formula used in iClean delivers iodine in a particularly efficient way that cannot be duplicated by regular supplements and foods.

iClean's three-month trial was funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. It was preceded by a clinical trial for safety and a pilot efficacy clinical trial.

Biomedical Development Corporation, the Texas company behind the oral rinse, is now awaiting results from a trial to be conducted by the Center for Oral Health Research at the University of Kentucky that will evaluate gingivitis patients over a six-month period. It will also monitor LDL cholesterol levels.

The latest study is being funded by the National Institute of Health's heart, lung and blood institute and also supported by the Kentucky Small Business Innovative Research/Small Business Technology Transfer program.

In Lexington, 40 people will be given iClean, while 40 will be given a placebo.

An earlier study, presented in April to the American Academy of Oral Medicine, showed that the oral rinse was safe and effective at fighting gingivitis. The measurement of LDL cholesterol levels was added in as part of a group of measurements used to make sure that the mouthwash was not toxic in any form.

LDL cholesterol collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing the blockages of atherosclerosis. Higher LDL levels can put a person at greater risk for a heart attack from a sudden blood clot in an artery narrowed by atherosclerosis.

The mouthwash's benefits may include not only fighting gingivitis and LDL cholesterol, but also the yeast infections common to those with head/neck and throat cancer, Gauntt said.

The American Academy of Periodontology says that people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease, while one study found that the presence of problems such as gingivitis, cavities and missing teeth were as good at predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels.

EBC has been working on this product for about 15 years, Gauntt said.

"A lot of people get gingivitis ... and then that can turn into periodontal disease over time if not corrected," Gauntt said. "Used early and in the right amounts, it might be that you can prevent periodontal disease and maybe additional diseases as well."

Robert Genco, distinguished professor of oral biology and microbiology at the University of Buffalo, said that there is growing evidence relating periodontal infection to various types of heart disease, "mainly the atherosclerotic type," in which an artery thickens because of the buildup of substances such as cholesterol and triglycerides.

"Preventing dental disease (and) decay and preventing periodontal disease or gum disease ... enables you to keep your teeth longer, and you're able to have a more nourishing diet," Genco said.

People without their natural teeth also have health risks, Genco said, including a tendency to eat more refined carbohydrates and less fiber, leading to more obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

"Keeping your teeth is good for your general health," Genco said.