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Study says eating this might help cure bad breath

Scientists say probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods might help dispel the embarrassing problem.

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emotion, expression and people concept - scared young african american man in yellow t-shirt covering his mouth by hands over office background
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By Stephen Beech via SWNS

Eating yogurt might help cure bad breath, according to new research.

Probiotic bacteria found in fermented foods - such as yogurt, sourdough bread, and miso soup - might help dispel the embarrassing problem, scientists say.

Taken in the form of supplements in this study, Lactobacillus salivarius, Lactobacillus reuteri, Streptococcus salivarius and Weissella cibaria, may help freshen the breath, suggests pooled data analysis of the available evidence.

Volatile sulphuric compounds are the main cause of persistent bad breath, known as halitosis.

Scientists say the compounds are produced by mouth bacteria as a result of bacterial mixing and food debris associated with poor dental and gum hygiene.

Options used to tackle the problem include mouthwashes, chewing gum, teeth scaling and tongue scraping.


However, emerging evidence suggests that probiotic bacteria might offer a simpler alternative.

To find out how long any such effects might last, the researchers trawled research databases for relevant clinical trials published up to February 2021.

Out of an initial haul of 238 records, duplication and incomplete data reduced the number of eligible clinical trials for pooled data analysis to seven, involving a total of 278 people.

The number of participants in each study was small, ranging from 23 to 68, with an age range between 19 and 70. Monitoring periods spanned two to 12 weeks.

Bad breath severity was defined by levels of volatile sulphuric compounds detected in the mouth or the OLP score, which measures breath odor at various distances from the mouth.

Yogurt with fresh fruit. On the black chalkboard.
(Chatham172 via Shutterstock)

Tongue coating scores (three studies) and the plaque index (thee studies) were also included in the analysis because a dirty tongue and the build-up of tartar between the teeth are often regarded as major causes of bad breath.

The pooled data analysis, published in BMJ Open, shows that OLP scores fell significantly in those given probiotics compared with those in the comparison study arms, irrespective of the length of the monitoring period.

A similar result was observed for the levels of volatile sulphuric compounds detected, although these varied "substantially" in the individual studies, and the observed effects were relatively short-lived - up to four weeks, after which there was no noticeable difference.

But there were no significant differences in tongue coating score or plaque index between those given probiotics and those who weren’t.


Study author Dr. Longjiang Li, of Sichuan University in China, said: "Probiotics may inhibit the decomposition of amino acids and proteins by anaerobic bacteria in the mouth, so curbing the production of smelly by-products."

But the researchers sounded a note of caution in the interpretation of their findings. The sample sizes of the included studies were small and some of the data were incomplete.

Dr. Li added: “This systematic review and meta-analysis indicates that probiotics may ease halitosis by reducing the volatile sulphuric compound concentration levels in the short term, but there is no significant effect on the major causes of halitosis, such as plaque and tongue coating.

“More high-quality randomized clinical trials are required in the future to verify the results and to provide evidence for the efficacy of probiotics in the management of halitosis."

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