We’ve voiced our take on refined sugar; it’s a highly addictive filler with no nutritional value at all. Now, thanks to a reminder from the scientific community, there’s yet another reason to embrace a low-sugar lifestyle — for dental health.
Cavities and tooth decay seem to affect children more than adults. Often they’re treated with “improved” toothpastes and way too many visits to the dentist.
But this past week, researchers from London’s dental colleges published a paper in the Journal of Dental Research to highlight the subject, reminding everyone that while fluoride gets the spotlight, the underlying reason for, and only cause of, caries (aka tooth decay) is dietary sugars. “They provide a substrate for cariogenic oral bacteria to flourish and to generate enamel-demineralizing acids. Modifying factors such as fluoride and dental hygiene would not be needed if we tackled the single cause—sugars.”
Specifically, the researchers refer to the detrimental category of sugars as “free sugars”, which are all sugars added to a food by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer, including extracted syrups; whereas naturally occurring sugars present in brown rice or fruit in their unrefined stages have been excluded from the list.
The direct link between free sugar and dental health has been confirmed by case studies led by the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly all of their studies drew a positive association between sugar intake and dental caries experience, with groups that consumed larger quantities of free sugars having increased levels of dental caries and, well, toothaches.
Accordingly, WHO has recommended a reduced free/refined sugar intake for both adults and children, urging everyone to reduce their sugar intake to less than 10% of total energy intake as a start, and gradually aiming for less than 5%. Still, more preventative measures are needed to tackle the dental hygiene issue as a whole.
In their paper, the London researchers state that in previous decades, large sugar industries have really gone out of their way to deny and even undermine scientific evidence of sugar being harmful to health, giving consumers no reason to cut back sugar whatsoever. But eating is now a rather transparent issue and health consciousness is on the rise, empowering consumers to make nourishing choices to protect their own health which, of course, includes those precious, pearly whites.