Oral Health Group

Because Life’s Already Sweet Enough

March 1, 2004
by Catherine Wilson, Editor

Being at an age where it’s easier to remember what happened to me when I was 10 rather than what happened to me 10 days ago, I recall having a bit of a sweet tooth as a kid.

I was scrawny and really sick a lot so I got spoiled… lots of candies and cake, and when I say candies and cake I mean chocolate. And it will come as no surprise that I had cavities. The dentist I went to as a kid (who is still practicing) never said ‘hey, knock it off with the chocolates, kid.’


March is nutrition month and who better than a dentist to talk about nutrition and oral health and oral health and overall health? Specifically, let’s talk sugar-glucose, lactose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, maltose. On average, we consume approximately 134 pounds of sugar annually… in 1850, that figure was about 15 pounds. Do you know that an 8-oz. chocolate bar contains 28 teaspoons of sugar; a 16-oz cola or soda has 12 teaspoons of sugar and a peanut butter sandwich has 7 teaspoons of sugar? Yipes!

Why is refined sugar bad for you? Reportedly the only proven harm posed by too much sugar is tooth decay. Dental caries and periodontal disease skyrocketed as sugar consumption has climbed. And some researchers suspect a sugar-laden diet is a culprit in the development and progression of heart disease, depression, mood swings, lethargy, hypoglycemia, diabetes, kidney disease, colon cancer, gallstones, obesity and ulcers, according to an article on WebMD by Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD.

“The bottom line? Limit your intake of sugar to about 10 percent of your total calories. For a person consuming 2,000 calories a day, that’s the equivalent of 200 sugar calories, or 50 grams of sugar — 12 teaspoons of sugar. One easy way to cut back is to trim your intake of non-diet sodas: A single can contains the equivalent of nine teaspoons. Also avoid sticky, sweet foods, such as processed fruit bars, candy, and caramel, since they are the worst offenders in the promotion of tooth decay. And read labels, keeping in mind that sugar comes disguised by many names, including corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, turbinado, and glucose.”1

“Today, dentists talk about a ‘snack food pyramid,’ in which the foods least harmful to teeth are the ones most easily washed away. The best choices include liquid or semi-solid foods such as milk, plain yogurt, and some fresh fruits and fresh fruit drinks. Next-best are such foods as applesauce, puddings, and ice cream; then come crackers, pretzels, chips, cookies, and cake. And the worst foods? Fruit leathers, dried fruits, marshmallows, and sticky candies — anything that tends to stay on the teeth,” says Francisco Ramos-Gomez, DDS.2

Refined sugar may also:

Contribute to blood sugar imbalances, including food cravings, PMS symptoms and anxiety symptoms.

Increase the perimenopausal anxiety, irritability and nervous tension many women feel.

Deplete B-complex vitamins and valuable minerals.

Intensify fatigue by narrowing blood vessels, making your heart and lungs work harder to move blood through your body.

Feed the candida fungus, leading to yeast infections, and worsening emotional symptoms like depression and nervous tension.

We live in a sugar culture. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, teenagers are drinking twice as much soda as milk, a complete reversal from just 20 years ago. We’re spending approximately US$60 billion a year on ‘liquid candy’–that’s twice what we spend on books. We’re drowning in sugar. Throw your patients a life-preserver.

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