Glenda PanzieriGlenda PanzieriMany studies have shown the benefits of a healthy diet in preventing major killers such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

But not as many studies have looked at the connection between a healthy diet and gum disease, which also can lead to serious health conditions.

A Temple College science student, Glenda Panzieri, is trying to change that.

Panzieri recently received with a $1,500 student research grant from the Texas Academy of Science (TAS) to study the link between diet and gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half the adults in America have periodontal disease, in which the supportive tissues surrounding the teeth become inflamed. Periodontal disease can pose a serious health risk because it opens pathways for bacteria to spread throughout the body.

While periodontal disease is frequently caused by poor oral hygiene, Panzieri wants to see if there is a connection between nutrition – particularly an anti-inflammatory diet – and periodontal disease.

An anti-inflammatory diet is low in foods made of refined carbohydrates and high in foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, olive oil and nuts, as well as foods such as dark green vegetables and citrus fruits that are high in compounds called polyphenols.

Panzieri is conducting her research at the Body of Christ Community Health Clinic in Belton, where she works as a volunteer.

In addition to being given a standard health assessment, patients will be asked whether they eat certain anti-inflammatory foods. Panzieri will then analyze relationship between oral health scores and anti-inflammatory eating habits.

Panzieri developed her grant proposal in the Biological Research Methods course she took from Dr. Jason Locklin. Her mentor for the project is Dr. Phillip Greco. Panzieri is one of only three undergraduate students in the state who received research grants from Texas Academy of Sciences this year. She received the second-place award.

“Although we are obviously proud of Glenda’s scholarship and research proposal, this TAS research grant indicates that others in this field think this work will provide data that is worthy of funding,” Dr. Locklin said. “That’s a big deal and we are excited to see the results of her work.”

Panzieri is conducting her research as a student research associate in the Temple College Biological Research Institute, which was formed in 2018 to help expose Temple College students to real-life research projects such as these.

Although conducting research in the United States is new to Panzieri, the topic of periodontal health is not. She was educated and trained as a dentist in the Philippines before moving to Texas.

“I looked for a topic that is related to what I know and what challenges beleaguer dentistry at a scientific level, and I found this problem,” she said.

Panzieri said she took the Research Methods course to improve her chances of getting accepted to dental school or a dental hygiene program in this country. Her passion for dentistry and community service inspires her to be an advocate for oral health, and health and fitness in general.

Panzieri is the fourth Temple College student to receive a research grant from the Texas Academy of Science. Previous recipients were Josh Huckabee (2011), Renee Brammer (2013) and Devin Corbitt (2016).