Recently, we ran across a not-very-surprising-yet-kind-of-interesting study published earlier this year in Caries Research.
The “no surprise” part is that it confirmed the role for sucrose – ordinary table sugar – in tooth decay. Evaluating a group of children over the course of 13 years, the researchers found that those with the highest sugar intake at 3 years old maintained high intake throughout the study, had higher counts of S. mutans and Lactobacilli in their saliva, and, thus, a higher risk of caries than those who ate less.
Kind-of-interesting thing, the first: The authors reported no differences in oral hygiene. Both groups shared similar toothbrushing habits. Sucrose intake was the obvious difference-maker.
Kind-of-interesting thing, the second: Sugar intake didn’t change much over the long-haul. Those who ate a lot of sugar early kept eating a lot; those who ate less consistently ate less. It pounds home just how strong a hold sugar can have over a person. We hesitate using the word “addiction” here – it’s just too problematic – yet plenty of those who have quit sugar will tell you just how hard it can be at the onset. Sugar makes the brain happy, after all – as it should, considering it’s the brain’s primary fuel. Going without makes the brain unhappy. It’s easier to just eat some more sugar instead of muddling through any period of feeling bad.
It’s also a good reminder of why it’s so important to instill and encourage healthy eating habits early: Those we pick up early tend to stick with us.
Kind-of-interesting thing, the third: The demarcation point for high sucrose/low sucrose intakes was 10% (i.e., those whose daily intake was more than 10% of their total calories were in the high group; those with less, in the low). That’s double the World Health Organization’s currently recommended consumption “target” for sugar. But as we noted before, recent research has shown that to prevent tooth decay, sugar consumption should be no more than 3%.
There is really every good reason to reduce the amount of added sugars we eat – and no really good reasons to stay the sugary course.