Links Explored Between Obesity and Halitosis
According to a near-recent article on Science Daily, a Tel Aviv study concluded that the more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have bad breath. (1) This condition, known as halitosis (2) is responsible for the emission of notoriously unpleasant odors when breathing. There are several common loci for the causes of halitosis and these are the tongue, mouth, gum disease, tonsils, esophagus, stomach, systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, and also an interesting phenomenon known as halitophobia (delusional halitosis). (3) The Israeli study concluded that the links between obesity and bad breath might be linked to the notion that overweight people apparently take less care of their bodies and mouths, or that they have a diet that promotes problems with the various parts of the body that can be the origin of the bad breath. (4) The researchers on the study also went on to say that further studies must be performed to determine the precise link.
Bad breath, obesity and alcohol intake
The study used a variety of methods of testing patients for bad breath: a self-administered questionnaire on their own general and oral health, dietary habits, and their own oral malodor levels. (5) Some of the other methods of testing for the condition, which was determined to be rather subjective in nature, were odor judge scores, volatile sulfide level testing and salivary beta-galactosidase. The basic conclusion of the study was that both alcohol intake and BMI could be factors that can be used to determine if the condition of bad breath exists. (6)
Testing for bad breath
Since then, at least one patent exists of a device that claims to be able to test bad breath. (7) Specifically, the device tests for sulfur and ammonia levels in the mouth, which have been shown to be related to bad breath.
Obesity and weight-loss: how they are related to bad breath
According to a 1999 study, one of the side-effects of weight loss programs is the possibility of bad breath. (8) The article goes on to claim that there are a variety of weight-loss methods available that can have serious side-effects, such as starvation and even death. The fact that this article is pretty dated (12 years as of this writing), is beginning to show. It claims that weight-loss methods such as diet restrictions, fasting and semi-starvation are risky, but it is quickly evident that the author did not have the vast body of knowledge available today regarding some of most of the popular weight-loss methods (Atkins, low-fat, low-carb, no-carb and others) are based on solid science and even biochemistry that has been extensively studied in the last 10 years. For instance, a very recent study published February 2011 concluded that low energy diets (LEDs) and very low energy diets (VLEDs), which consist of an extremely low carbohydrate intake that induces ketosis, were very successful in bringing about weight loss. However, those subjects that were on the VLED did not consume any carbohydrates at all and ended up with side-effects, one of which was bad breath. This indicates that the LED diet is better for weight loss than the VLED one, to avoid the side-effects. (9)
Another book, specifically discussing the effects of soft-drinks and soda on the consumers, states that not only do carbonated sugar drinks cause obesity, but some of the other side-effects are tooth-decay and bad breath. (10)
Bad breath and perceptions of obese individuals
One interesting study conducted on young children in the United Kingdom examined their predispositions to other children of varying body-weights, body-sizes, shapes and weights. (11) In general, obese children are considered to be at higher risk of poorer health in both short and long term. The attitudes of children and beliefs about their bodies were also examined. Studies on children between the ages of 4-11 were investigated and children were contacted through various forums to assess their views. In total, 28 studies were included. One of the common perceptions among children about overweight people were that they had bad breath. (12) While this is very hard to quantify and does contain a lot of conditioned prejudice, if the obese condition of the patient is related to some sort of a dysfunction or anomaly in one of the areas of the body that can be responsible for bad breath then there is a definite link to obesity.
Treatment of bad breath
The most commonly recommended treatment for bad breath is good oral hygiene, as the majority of cases of bad breath are related to issues with improper oral behavior. Regular cleaning of the teeth, gums and tongue as well as mouthwashes are recommended. (13) Because there are 600 varieties of bacteria on the tongue, they need to be cleaned out regularly. People who are obese also often suffer from other issues such as stomach pains and excessive gas or flatulence. Disorders in the stomach have also been shown to be responsible for issues with bad breath. Conditions such as stomach ulcers which can lead to stomach cancer have been related to obesity and inappropriate diets with low nutrition. (14)
Healthy living for healthy breath
Ultimately, people who suffer from obesity also seem to suffer with other conditions such as poor body- and oral hygiene, stomach problems such as reflux and ulcers, tooth decay and bad breath. All of these conditions can be treated by a simple lifestyle and diet change that incorporates regular physical exercise or working out to promote weight-loss and changes in diet to get the nutrients and minerals necessary to fend off harmful bacteria and prevent stomach conditions such as reflux. If you are obese and suffering from bad breath, take action now.