Fad Diets & The Mouth

Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS Nutritional Periodontist
March 19, 2018 [printfriendly]




Fad DietsAn email about fad diets and bad breath was forwarded to me. This email claimed that some fad diets like fasting and low-carb could lead to dehydration and bad breath in the mouth. This might make sense to some extent about fad diets, but there was an underlying intent.


The ultimate purpose of the email was to promote a dentist-developed, bad-breath lozenge. I’ve already discussed how I feel about healthcare practitioners promoting products, so I won’t go into that here. The issues this email raised for me, however, were the definition of a “fad diet” and the side effects in the mouth. So, let me talk about fad diets as well as the effects of dehydration and bad breath in the mouth.


Fad Diets

Let me be clear: I do not believe in fad diets. I wrote an article that described some fad diets over the past decades. But, what is a “fad diet”?


If a nutrient-dense diet that has sustained our primal ancestors for at least 160,000 years is considered a “fad diet,” then I disagree with labeling it a fad diet. If the diets of various primal societies existing in isolated areas in the world today are considered “fad diets”, then I disagree they are fad diets.


“Fad Diets” are quick fixes to lose weight by removing critical nutrients, which the body requires.


Fasting is Not a Fad

Fasting has been studied and researched for many years. Peer-reviewed medical articles have been published in various medical journals. The overwhelming evidence is that fasting can produce significant health benefits like regulation of insulin and other hormones, repair of mitochondria, and increase in longevity. Of course, drinking water is necessary when fasting. Water does not break a fast.


Low-Carb is Not a Fad

A low to very low-carbohydrate diet and even a “keto diet” have been studied. Our body can make the extra glucose it requires from other nutrients we have ingested. We don’t need excess carbohydrates from our diet. Becoming a “fat burner” and not a “sugar burner” is healthy. However, this may cause a change in odors on the breath. I remind my patients that these odors frequently will go away as these eating styles become stabilized in the body.


One popular diet question I get from my patients is about lean meats. I don’t eat lean meats. I eat meats from pastured or wild caught animals that live humanely in their natural environments and only feed on their natural food sources. I include their healthy fats and their amazingly nutritious organs.


Another popular question I get is about whole grains. Whole grains are problematic, as they have:

  • Phytates that bind to necessary nutrients
  • Proteins that are not completely digested and damage the gut microbiome and the intestinal lining
  • Excess carbohydrates that are unnecessary for healthy metabolism.


However, low-carb is not for everyone. For example, those who are children, are pregnant, have hypothyroidism, or have “adrenal fatigue” should not go “low carb”. I try to talk with my patients about this, not always with success. In general, it is probably fair to say that most people will benefit from eating significantly fewer carbohydrates than are eaten by the majority of individuals in the modern world.



We often hear about how much water we should drink each day. Humans do not need to drink a specific volume of water daily. Your body will tell you when you need water. When you are thirsty, you should drink water – all the water you want. If you are thirsty but you don’t drink sufficient water, then you could get dehydrated. Listen to your body!


Bad Breath

Everyone occasionally will experience bad breath, which is usually caused by the digestion of some odoriferous foods. However, chronic bad breath can be caused by many things –excessive protein consumption, bacterial overgrowth in the mouth and other parts of the digestive system, systemic infections, gum disease & tooth decay, sinus problems, and tonsil stones. Dehydration could cause bad breath by decreasing the flow of saliva.


I explain to my patients that adequate saliva is necessary to begin the digestion of certain foods, lubricate the mouth, and wash away food particles and bacteria. So, a decrease in saliva could cause bad breath by allowing the level of unhealthy bacteria to increase. Adequate saliva also provides necessary nutrients to the healthy microbiome in the mouth as well as the healthy biofilm around the tooth margin called dental plaque. (By the way, dental plaque is healthy until it’s not.)


My Final Comments

Fad diets are unhealthy. They might cause dehydration and bad breath, among other complications. But, a healthy diet of nutrient-dense foods is not a fad diet and will not cause dehydration or bad breath. Let’s be sure to define fad diets correctly. “Fad diets” are quick fixes to lose weight by removing critical nutrients that the body requires.



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Science Gives Green Light to Low Carb

evolution rDiabetes is a huge problem in the US. The 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report identified that this disease affects 29.1 million people in the US (9.3% of the population), and it is estimated that 86 million adults have prediabetes (1 out of every 3 adults). In contrast, today’s hunter-gatherer societies dispersed worldwide rarely experience degenerative diseases like type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes just doesn’t happen overnight. First, there are years of nutritional incongruities. Then there are years of progressive clinical manifestations of metabolic syndrome. Eventually, there is a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and later possibly a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.
The manifestations of metabolic syndrome, which are frequently precursors to type 2 diabetes, include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased triglycerides
  • Decreased HDL cholesterol
  • Increased visceral fat around the waist
  • Increased fasting blood glucose

Richard Feinman and 25 additional authors wrote a critical review citing evidence of the benefits of a low-carbohydrate diet on Type 2 diabetes and various metabolic syndrome markers. It was published in Nutrition on January 31, 2015. In this article, the authors summarized 12 points of evidence that strongly support the health benefits of a low carbohydrate diet.
The article points out that a low carbohydrate diet would consist of less than 130 grams of carbohydrates per day, which should translate to less than 26% of the total energy (calories) consumed in a day. In 2000, the average daily consumption of carbohydrates was 330 grams for men and 230 grams for women.
A primal or Paleo diet is a lifestyle of eating nutrient-dense foods. It could be a low-carbohydrate diet if fruits, nuts, and starchy vegetables were consumed in limited quantities.
Here is my summary of the article’s pertinent points that translates to an overall healthier body:

  • Reducing dietary carbohydrates is the best way to decrease blood glucose levels.
  • There has never been any other dietary intervention for weight loss that has been superior to reducing dietary carbohydrates.
  • Replacing carbohydrates with protein in a meal is generally helpful with the exception of those people with existing kidney disease.
  • Healthy fats that are consumed from food do not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Plasma saturated fatty acids, which contribute to cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance, are increased with consumption of carbohydrates. Healthy fats in food consumed by humans do not contribute to unhealthy levels of saturated fatty acids in their plasma.
  • Reducing dietary carbohydrates will reduce serum levels of triglycerides, increase healthy levels of HDL cholesterol, and improve all factors of metabolic syndrome.
  • There have never been human studies that have shown that lowering carbohydrates will have significant negative side effects.

A lifestyle that incorporates a low-carb eating plan is not just for type 2 diabetics. It is a healthy plan for the entire family, for the entire body, and for the entire mouth. I encourage you to read this review paper where you also will find all the references for the various studies to support the authors’ statements.

Jimmy Moore Interviews Me

evolution rJimmy Moore is an interesting guy. He used to weigh 410 pounds! Then he lost over 180 pounds through a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb lifestyle. Since then, he wrote several books and created and still hosts a podcast called The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show. His interview with me this week was his 884th episode, so he has had a lot of experience doing these. He produces incisive interviews with the leaders in the fields of Paleo fitness, low-carb nutritional research and real food advocacy. And, he is very good at it.
Here is episode #884 where Jimmy interviews me about primal nutrition, gum treatment, my clinical study involving nutrient-dense real food supplements with my patients, and much more. Listen to it here.