August 28, 2017
On average, Australians and New Zealanders consume 14 teaspoons of sugars (60 grams) per day. High consumption of sugars is the primary cause of dental decay and other health problems including overweight or obesity, diabetes, heart diseases and even some cancers. Dental decay can largely be prevented by reducing sugars intake
Where do Sugars in our daily diet come from?
Natural SugarsThese are sugars that are naturally present in fruit (as fructose) and in dairy products (as lactose). E.g. fruit, milk and cheese
These provide essential nutrients to the body and keep you healthy
Added Sugars(or Hidden sugars) These are sugars and syrups that are added to food or drinks by the manufacturer or cook during cooking, preparation and manufacturing of food
E.g. regular soft drinks, energy drinks, breakfast cereals, breads, buns, pastries, fruit pies, cakes, biscuits, lollies, chocolates, ice cream, puddings and sugars-containing alcoholic beverages
These provide no essential nutrition to the body and add extra calories that harm your body
Free SugarsAdded sugars + sugars present in honey, syrups and fruit juices. E.g. table sugars (sucrose) commonly added to tea and coffee, fruit juice, sugar syrups and honey
How do Sugars affect your general health?
Excess consumption of sugars is harmful for both general and oral health. They can affect different parts of your body and cause health problems. For example:
- Brain: Can cause addiction, impaired learning and memory loss
- Stress: Can cause anxiety and irritability
- Face: Can cause wrinkles, saggy skin and early ageing
- Heart: Can cause heart disease (including strokes and heart attacks) and may increase cholesterol levels
- Liver: Can cause fatty liver disease (damages liver)
- Pancreas: Can cause type-2 diabetes, gout, cancers
- Ageing: Can cause loss of elasticity, fastens ageing of all the
- body tissues, from skin, to organs, to arteries
- Weight gain: Can cause overweight (BMI >25 and <29) and
- obesity (BMI ≥ 30) [Normal weight (BMI >18.5 and <25)]
- Blood vessels: Can cause high blood pressure
- Immune system: Weakens the body’s normal defence system to fight against infection
How do Sugars affect your oral health?
Sugars are the main cause of tooth decay
Tooth decay occurs when the hard outer enamel layer of the tooth
is damaged. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms a layer on teeth. Most damage to tooth enamel is caused by acids produced by bacteria in the plaque using sugars as their main source of energy. The bacterial acid penetrates the tooth surface, and dissolves some tooth minerals like calcium, phosphate and fluoride. When this occurs over several months, the enamel finally breaks and black-brown holes (referred to as dental cavities) appear.
Current amount of Sugars consumed by Australians and New Zealanders
On average, the amount of sugars consumed by Australians and New Zealanders is 14 teaspoons of sugars per day (60 grams).
How can you reduce your sugars intake?
1. Choose healthy alternatives:
2. Know the daily limit of sugars intake
3. Cook your own meals
4. Remove sugars from sight: like table sugars, fruit juice, tomato sauce 5. Avoid junk food/ take-away foods
6. Reduce overall carbohydrate intake: e.g. white bread, white rice, soft drinks, white sugars, cereals and pasta.
7. Read labels: Sometimes sugars are hidden in foods like oatmeal, salad dressing, yogurt and processed foods. Watch for high fructose corn syrup or added/free sugars
Tips to prevent tooth decay and stay healthy
There are many ways in which you can keep your teeth healthy. Below are some simple steps:
1. Introduce a low sugar diet for your children early in life.
2. Engage in healthy eating around children as they learn from what they see.
3. Be aware of the amount and frequency of the sugars-containing foods that you eat and drink.
4. Avoid eating long-lasting sources of sugars such as dried fruits, fruit leathers and hard or chewy sweets as these stick to teeth and cause tooth decay.
5. Remember to rinse your teeth after consuming sugars-containing food or drink, with water.
6. Replace sugars-containing food and drinks with healthy and nutritious food options.
7. Don’t let children sleep with a bottle or suck on a feeding cup for long period of time.
8. Saliva plays an important role in dental health. It helps in cleaning foods away from teeth, neutralising the acids, re-mineralising teeth and repairing tooth damage. Chewing sugar free gum after eating may also help stimulate saliva production.
9. Brush your teeth twice a day, after breakfast and at bedtime with a fluoride toothpaste. Make sure to brush every surface of every tooth.
10. Drinking fluoridated water (tap water) helps prevent tooth decay and strengthen the teeth.
11. Engage in some form of physical activity for 20-30 minutes daily.
12. Visit your dental practitioner for regular check-ups.
13. Ask your dental practitioner or GP for more advice.
High intake of added or free Sugars = high risk of disease