Why should I read a food label? Might help prevent cavities!

added on: September 21, 2018

Do you read those labels on the side of packaged food products? Maybe you should.  In 2016 the Food and Drug Administration approved a new label that highlights the sugar levels in foods.  The push for the FDA’s decision came from an effort to address the connection between diet and the rising rate of obesity, diabetes and other ailments.  And since there is a direct relationship between sugar and cavities, knowing how much sugar is really in foods may help limit dental decay.

Some foods have naturally occurring sugars, but many times food manufacturers add additional sugars to enhance flavor and therefore, sales.  The FDA decision now requires food labels to break out the amount of added sugars (see the old label and new label below):

nutrition label

Image Courtesy of U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION

What effect might these newer labels have? Government health officials recommend eating no more than 50 grams of added sugars —or the equivalent of 12.5 teaspoons of granulated sugar—a day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. However, the FDA estimates Americans on average consume the equivalent of 20 teaspoons through added sugars like honey, high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners. Maybe by reading labels people may cut back on their consumption of sugar.

One cup of low-fat vanilla yogurt can have three to four teaspoons of added sugar per serving. Flavored oatmeal also can have as many as three teaspoons of added sugar. Even savory foods contain added sugar. Pasta sauce, for instance, often has 10% of the recommended daily intake per serving, according to the new standard. A 20-ounce bottle of Coke, for instance, contains about 130% of the daily recommended maximum for added sugar.

My patients at our Sheboygan dental office are often surprised to be getting cavities, when they are avoiding obvious sugars.  But it’s the added sugars that may be the culprit.  Start reading the label on foods…..you might be surprised how much sugar you are getting and might have a better check-up at your next dental visit!