Let’s face it: We all love the taste of sugar. Biologically, we’re hardwired to love sweets. It’s a way our bodies ensure our survival when food is scarce.
But like any strength overplayed, this taste for sweetness has become our weakness. Just how weak? Here’s how we stack up to other countries in terms of daily sugar consumption:
Annually, the average American eats from 150 to 170 pounds of sugar.
From a dental perspective, that’s just way too much. Not only does it cause tooth decay, and contribute to eventual tooth loss; we now know, scientifically, that plaque found in the mouth causes systematic inflammation that is related to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a host of other chronic conditions.
In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) presented evidence for setting a recommended maximum sugar intake of less than 10% of daily calories. Additional evidence suggested even more health benefits at a max of 5% of daily calories or less.
Now a new analysis in Advances in Nutrition suggests that less than 5% is best for oral health, as well.
Setting the stage for these recommendations is the work like that of Dr. Robert H. Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and professor of clinical pediatrics at UCSF. His popular talk “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” is more than just a scathing report on the dangers of dietary sugar. It may be a source of motivation for you to break-up with sugar, once and for all.
Since that lecture debuted, there’s been a virtual avalanche of sugar documentaries. These films are all based in oth developed countries, where sugar flows freely.
- Australia: Toxic Sugar?
- Great Britain: The Truth About Sugar
- Canada: The Secrets of Sugar
- US: Is Sugar Toxic?: 60 Minutes Investigates
Giving up sugar isn’t easy, but if you’re tempted to give it a go – and who wouldn’t be after watching that line-up? – be forewarned: You may experience short term but intense cravings that could make you want to sell your dog for a brownie, as writer Michael Grothaus put it in his essay on quitting refined sugar.
Then again, you might – as Grothaus did – achieve a health nirvana. You may break your cravings for more sugar and more carbs.
If you do commit, you’ll be ahead of the dental curve. One powerful study that analyzed sugar intake and caries (tooth decay) rates in countries where sugar consumption changed due to wartime restrictions, it was clear that the higher the sugar intake, the greater the incidence of decay.
There is a robust log-linear relationship of caries to sugar intakes from 0%E to 10%E sugar. A 10%E sugar intake induces a costly burden of caries. These findings imply that public health goals need to set sugar intakes ideally <3%E with <5%E as a pragmatic goal, even when fluoride is widely used.
To put it another way, if you consume a 2000 calorie diet, you cap your sugar intake to 60 calories to prevent caries – 4 teaspoons tops.
While the evidence against sugar is certainly compelling enough to warrant a change in our daily sugar habit, only one question remains: Will we?
We’d love to hear if limiting sugar becomes a sustainable lifestyle for you!
Image by Oregon State University