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Global Initiative to Half Sugar to Keep Teeth for Life

by Lucy Stock BDS DipImpDent RCS (Eng)

Published in the Irish News . 15.01.2014

Since 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that intake of “free sugars” should be less than 10% of our total calorie intake. Free sugars are sugars that are added to foods by the manufacturer, cook, or consumer; plus those naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

The Newcastle University study, commissioned by the WHO and published in the Journal of Dental Research showed that when less than 10% of total calories in the diet is made up of free sugars there are much lower levels of tooth decay. The research findings suggest that halving this threshold for sugars to less than 5% of calories, around five teaspoons a day, would reduce the risk of getting dental cavities throughout life. What exactly does this mean?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that belongs to a class of chemically-related sweet-flavored substances. Even though our cells need sugar (glucose) to survive, consuming too much of it can cause numerous different health problems. Added sugar contains no beneficial nutrients. Being aware of the existing and added sugar contents of the foods and drinks we consume is vital for our health – even more so today because so many products have sugar added to them.

Sugar comes in many different forms. The three main types of sugar are sucrose, lactose, and fructose. Here are just some of the other names for sugar that you will see on food labels: barley malt, beet sugar, carob syrup, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, maltodextrin, lactose and sorbitol. As a general rule if sugar or any of its aliases are found among the top 3 ingredients on the label then this is indicates that the food contains high amounts of sugar so try and avoid. 

Foods containing 5 or more teaspoons of sugar:

  • 1 Milk chocolate bar.
  • A can coca cola.
  • Large glass of fruit smoothie.
  • 1 chocolate chip muffin.
  • 2 scoops Ice cream.
  • Bowl of Alpen.

 

Foods with lower or no sugar:

  • Water, unsweetened tea and black coffee.
  • Eggs, nuts and vegetables.
  • Any unprocessed meats and fish.
  • Rye bread.
  • Weetabix or shredded wheat. Check cereals carefully as for example Froot Loops are said to contain 106 times more sugar than Shredded Wheat.