Sugar obsession in America

added on: August 15, 2014

Written by: Karen Davis, RDH, BSDH Cutting Edge Concepts karen@karendavis.net

If you had to swallow 30 teaspoons of table sugar on any given day, you would probably have a difficult time getting it down. When added to frozen pizzas, cereals, breads, soups, condiments, yogurt and beverages, the average American consumes this amount of sugar every day.

sugar and dental health disease
The food and beverage industry has slowly, but surely added sugar to just about everything processed. Sugar consumption has been on a steady rise in this country since the 1950s, but so has diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Coincidental? You decide.

Dental professionals are all too familiar with the impact of overconsumption of sugar in the oral cavity. Today, young people consume more sugary beverages than milk, ultimately contributing to erosion, demineralization of tooth structures and dental caries.

So what can dental professionals do? A great place to start is to teach patients how to become label detectives. In 2009, the American Heart Association took a stand and published recommendations for sugar-obsessed Americans to literally slash daily sugar consumption.

Instead of indulging in the average 30 teaspoons of daily sugar; the recommends limiting daily consumption to 6 ½ teaspoons for women and 9 ½ teaspoons for men. This translates to 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. The average soda has 40 grams of added sugar.

Many single servings of yogurts have 25 – 30 grams and not surprisingly, the aisles of processed cookies are loaded with added sugars.

Mindless eating and drinking will maintain he overconsumption of sugar well beyond the daily recommendations, but dental professionals have a unique opportunity to educate patients how to read labels and make deliberate decisions to limit added sugars.

However, this task is a bit complicated due to the various names manufacturers use in their ingredient lists to describe sugar.

High-fructose corn syrup has received bad press and a few manufacturers have started marketing products with “No HFCS” listed on the front of their products to lure consumers into thinking those products are “healthier” choices.

In reality, sugar is sugar, irrespective of the name. Raw organic sugar and agave syrup are both sugars. Juice concentrate and evaporated cane juice are just different names for sugar.

Being a label detective requires consumers to look for other names of sugar buried in the long list of ingredients.

Recent data indicates that fructose consumption results in increased visceral fat accumulation, triglycerides and blood pressure, as well as decreased insulin sensitivity. All of which have been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

A higher level of HbA1C has also been implicated as a potential player in cognitive decline. Empty calories from added sugar do not provide essential nutrients, yet contribute to weight gain. It appears as
though the stakes are high when it comes to America’s sugar obsession.

Now is the time for dental professionals to become advocates in guiding patients toward slashing sugar consumption.

Reprinted with permission from the Wisconsin Dental Association