Much research continues to support the not-so-sweet truth that sugar is bad for us. In the dental community, we focus on sugar’s effects on oral health, but the bigger picture is far scarier than just tooth decay.
Earlier in 2014, the Journal of American Medicine Association shared a study that showed a significant relationship between sugar and cardiovascular disease related deaths. The more added sugar in a person’s diet, the higher the risk of dying of heart disease.
“Our findings indicate that most US adults consume more added sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet. A higher percentage of calories from added sugar is associated with significantly increased risk of CVD mortality,” wrote the authors of the study.
The study also estimates that over 70% of adults have diets that include 10% or more of the calories coming from sugar. This means the majority of people are exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommendation of less than 10% of daily calories coming from sugar.
The American Heart Association shows their concern by having even lower amounts of added sugar recommended – 100 calories for women and 150 calories for men per day. That is no more than 6 teaspoons and 9 teaspoons respectively.
A quick mental measurement – most sugary cereals have 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving.
Researchers have been examining our relationship with sugar for a long time, and in recent years many have come together to conclude sugar is addictive. There is still much room for debate, as discussed in this article featured on NPR in 2013, but addicted or not, the high sugar diets of today are posing big risks.
So can you live sweetly without sugar?
As with any required change, the first step is getting a realistic perspective on the amount of sugar currently in your diet. Take an honest inventory of the sugar you consume and when.
Identifying any behavior patterns that lead to eating sugary foods is also very helpful. Often we learn that we can simply replace a negative habit with a positive one, such as swapping out the afternoon latte for a 15 minute walk in the sunshine (soak in some Vitamin D too!).
Some people find it is more effective to remove nearly all sugar from your diet than it is to aim for moderation. Once you get to a diet of minimal amounts of added sugar, your body will begin to crave less of it. Keeping in a moderate amount will sustain the body’s cravings and make you more likely to overindulge.
From an oral health perspective, the mantra continues to be the same – the less sugar the better. The added emphasis of looking at sugar’s effects on our overall health makes this an issue none of us can afford to ignore.
The real sweetness is in having a healthy body from teeth to toes, not in answering the call of that box of cookies.
Changing Lives, One Smile at a Time
Dr. Randall Burba is an AACD accredited dentist, practicing in Salem, MA. He considers himself an artist – with teeth and beyond! He often paints, draws and has a passion for woodworking. Follow Burba Dental Partners on Twitter and Facebook.