The ‘Elite’, as they have now been reclassified, have a lot to answer for in the history of tits and teeth.
Sugar first started being imported in Britain in the 1300s. Only the rich could afford it and would literally dine out on it; having it shaped into liquid receptacles to drink their beverages from and then eating it in a manner that would excite Heston Blumenthal to his very core. This led to the occurrence of rotten teeth on quite a large scale so the cavity-less poor would sell their teeth to the rich. Extracted without anaesthetic and implanted into the bacteria-poo infested wealthy, it didn’t have a high rate of success.
In the 50’s, boobing was reported in Women’s magazines to be a practice of the poor – those that couldn’t afford formula, breastfed and were seen as peons. Yet, in today’s society, it seems that those that are low on the socio-economic scale are less likely to boob even though it’s free.
Back to teeth. Sugar is now consumed at ridiculous levels even though we are aware of it’s implications with diabetes, obesity and tooth decay. It has 50 different aliases including, sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, glucose, sorbitol and molasses.
Hot off the press, research has shown sugar to have an inflammatory effect on the human body thus turning the theory of gum disease on it’s head. It was once thought that quite simply, bacteria arrives first which leads to inflammation that causes destruction of the gums. This is still true but also the consumption of sugar can lead to inflammation first; the inflammatory cells ‘feed’ the bacteria, helping them thrive thus also causing gum disease. This has meant a whole new category of gum disease has been created. Food-induced gum disease. These people tend to have good standards of oral hygiene but still have bleeding gums. (Before you self diagnose, go and see a dental hygienist!)
In dental decay world, non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES) are classed as the most cavity-creating. They include the sugar we add to our tea/coffee, the sugar added to food, honey and syrups. Fructose (fruit sugars) and lactose (milk sugars) can still cause tooth decay if the exposure is frequent enough and long enough, but for the simplicity of this blog, I’m going to stick to NMES otherwise we’ll be here all bloody day.
10g of sugar is about two and a half level teaspoons. The guideline daily amount of sugar for children over the age of 5 is eight and a half times that – 85! That’s about 21 teaspoons of sugar a day. That seems like quite a lot. There are no clear guidelines on recommended amounts prior to age 5, but the AHA recommend no more than 16g – 4 teaspoons.
Rice Krispies, a seemingly plain cereal, contains 9g of sugar per 30g portion. Coco Pops contains about 17g. Frosted flakes about 18g. Tinned beans/pasta in a faux tomato sauce contains between 8-10g. A pack of chocolate buttons is about 21g. Two pots of Petit Filous yoghurts contains about 12g – that’s 3 teaspoons of sugar in those teeny, tiny pots which we forcibly spoon into our baby’s teeny, tiny mouths.
If I analyse the sugar intake of my daughter on an average day, it’s probably around 40g which is quite over the AHA guideline. She has chocolate but doesn’t eat sweets and doesn’t have sugary drinks. But that’s still about 10 teaspoons of NMES. Great. Now I have sugar guilt.
However, as much as it saddens me to say, research suggests that sugary foods eaten at mealtimes, especially sugar-laden breakfast cereals, do not increase the incidence of tooth decay as they are eaten at a mealtime when acid attack is already going to happen. But before you breath a sigh of relief that you’re able to relieve yourself of breakfast cereal guilt, we still have to consider the big picture – the health effects of sugar consumption on body weight and diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can ravage the supporting structures of the teeth and gums and 16.3% of children, aged 2-15, in England were reported as obese in a health document published in 2012. I’m really keeping it light today, People.
So, let’s look at drinks. These, are what I personally think are quite damaging. Heinz have a baby juice which has no added sugar and has quotes from some dental association on it. All natural sugars but using the wonderful medium of litmus, you can see how acidic it is. This is also marketed for babies. BABIES! When their newly erupted enamel is still soft and fragile. Perfecto.
Fruit Shoots flavoured water is equally as acidic and so is a glass of cordial, no matter how dilute it is. These also tend to be sipped at regular intervals throughout the day, especially if put into beakers and something named ‘hydro’ which is basically water may lull you into a false sense of security. Don’t be lulled. Be the opposite of lulled.
Something even more controversial though, which brings up debates similar to water fluoridation, is the use of sweeteners as a sugar substitute. Aspartame is meant to be one of the most researched sweeteners on the market and has been deemed safe. And yet there is research out there that suggests it has a profoundly negative effects on the nervous system, causes memory loss, allergic disease development when consumed in pregnancy and can cause hyperactivity and aggression in children.
However, some sweeteners are anti-bacterial, especially against the critters that cause tooth decay and eating sugar on an empty stomach can equally cause a child to become an aggressive, hyperactive, hyperventilating beast.
I don’t know about you but my brain just fell out.
Let’s take some deep breaths, poke our brains back in to our ears and try to make sense of this. Let me tell you what I am going to do with my children (90% of the time):
- Stick to sugary snacks at mealtimes only
- Limit acidic drinks, even natural fruit juices, to mealtimes only
- Try to only choose things with naturally occurring sugars as much as possible
- Avoid anything with aspartame because (in my opinion) there ain’t no smoke without fire
- Carry litmus paper with me every where to randomly dip as much as possible
- If the kids are ever diagnosed with diabetes, blame the Father
Thank you to the brilliant Maria Dragan for letting me use her ‘candy’ photo.