Most every adult in the US – 92%, to be exact – have experienced cavities. What’s to be done about it?
Quite a bit, actually.
Such a high rate of decay is unnatural, and we know the culprit: added sugars. Every time you eat hyper-processed food or sip a soft drink, you consume the stuff. Years of excess wear down your oral defenses, allowing the byproducts of bacteria to eat away at your teeth and form caries.
Dental disease is a disease often caused by years of poor eating. A new paper in BMC Public Health puts the matter starkly:
It is now evident that the majority of caries occurs in adults, not in children, because the disease is cumulative and the rates of caries in individuals tracks from early childhood to adolescence and then into adulthood.
Even though good oral hygiene, such as frequent cleaning and flossing, reduces the amount of damage, most American adults still experience problems because their diets are full of refined sugars and carbs (which are digested as sugar). By way of comparison, where sugar consumption is very low, caries are almost non-existent.
Meticulous Japanese data on caries incidence in two types of teeth show robust log-linear relationships to sugar intakes from 0%E to 10%E sugar with a 10 fold increase in caries if caries is assessed over several years’ exposure to sugar rather than only for the first year after tooth eruption. Adults aged 65 years and older living in water fluoridated areas where high proportions of people used fluoridated toothpastes, had nearly half of all tooth surfaces affected by caries. This more extensive burden of disease in adults does not occur if sugar intakes are limited to <3% energy intake.
Even so, the authors propose 5% as a more realistic goal – a number in line with the World Health Organization’s decision earlier this year to lower their previous recommendation by half. For the average person, that means just about 25 grams of sugar each day. That’s not much.
A 12 ounce can of Coke contains nearly 40 grams of sugar. And those 40 grams of sugar are the source of every calorie in there. A single serving of Craisins is a bit over the recommended max.
Of course, cavities aren’t the only risk associated with eating too much sugar. According to research just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,
A high frequency of consumption of added sugars is associated with periodontal disease, independent of traditional risk factors, suggesting that this consumption pattern may contribute to the systemic inflammation observed in periodontal disease and associated noncommunicable diseases.
That means heart disease, diabetes, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, depression and all the other inflammatory conditions that have been associated with gum disease.
One of the many biological responses that sugar causes is increasing your insulin levels. If they remain too high for too long, this may increase your risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease, or skin disorders. Sugar may also weaken your immune system, making you more likely to develop anything from common colds to more serious diseases.
In fact, there are more than 140 ways in which sugar can ruin your health!
Reducing sugar intake is no easy task, we agree. So much of the food most readily available is hyper-processed, full of refined carbohydrates and added sugars, but you can do it. You’ll find some excellent tips in this MindBodyGreen post, as well as this Eat Local Grown post on transitioning away from processed food – again, the source of most added sugars.
And keep in mind: Eating more healthfully doesn’t have to be boring! Move past just boiling your vegetables and check out these healthy recipes that turn common vegetables and fruits into scrumptious meals just in time for the autumn season:
- Health’s “5 Fabulous Fresh Fruit Recipes”
- Delish’s “18 Hearty Vegetarian Recipes for the Fall”
- The Kitchn’s “Your Autumn Vegetable Inspiration File: 40 Recipes for Fall”
Image by Andrew_B