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How much is too much sugar? 

The average American eats about 155 pounds of sugars a year!
or 39 teaspoons day!*

     We are drowning in sugar and we have developed a relentless sweet tooth:

  1. Three fourths of our sugar intake is in the form of prepared foods like soft drinks and candy. 

  2. Each of us in America eats about 147 pounds of sweetener a year.  

  3. This adds up to around one teaspoon of sugar every half-hour, for 24 hours a day or 500 calories worth of sugar a day! 

  4. It is recommended that bout 10 percent of total calories come from sugar. But Americans consume 15.7 percent on average or their calories in sugar, and some eat far more.  This means twenty five percent of the calories we eat and fifty percent of the calories most kids eat are from sugar! 

     Sugar or sucrose is known by several names, depending on its from and how it is processed . You can recognize some sugars because their names end in –use like dextrose, glucose fructose, lactose, maltose, Some other types of sugars are sugar alcohols: sorbitol, xylitol , mannitol.  Some other forms of sugar are corn syrup, maple sugar, honey, invert sugar, or malt . 

    Sugar is in almost everything you buy to eat today.  The reasons for this are that sugar is used: 

  1. to add flavor to food

  2. as a preservative in food

  3. to improve food texture

  4. and it is naturally occurring in many foods.  

     Sugar intake and nutrition have a direct influence on the progression of tooth decay.  We all have plaque, which is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that constantly forms on the surfaces of our teeth.  When this bacteria comes in contact with sugar the acidity of our mouth becomes 100 times greater because the sugar acts as a food source for the bacteria.

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      In less than 20 minutes after the bacteria has been in contact with sugar these acids start attacking and dissolving your tooth enamel to cause mineral loss from the surfaces of your teeth leaving them ripe for cavities    The longer this sugar is in contact with our teeth the greater chance of tooth decay.


1 teaspoon of table sugar = about 5 grams


A pop having 50 grams of sugar is  the equivalence of 10   teaspoons of sugar


USDA advises 2,000 calorie healthful diet to limit to 10 teaspoons of sugar/day

Reasons to limit the amount of sugar you eat:

·       Sugar has very limited nutritional value containing only calories and lacking vitamins, minerals and fiber

·       High sugar foods often replace more healthful foods (people who eat diets high in sugar get less calcium; fiber; folate; vitamin A, C and E; zinc; magnesium; iron; other nutrients and consume fewer fruits and vegetables)

·       Promotes tooth decay  

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The following things increase the number and activity of bacteria in our mouths:

·      Type of food- the stickiness of foods like, chewing gum, raisins, dried fruits and some candies, will cause the food to adhere to and between our teeth making the length of contact time of sugar with our teeth longer which allows acid production to be prolonged.  Natural sugars have the same effect on teeth as refined sugar so you still need to brush.

·      Frequency of intake-how often you eat foods containing sugar is more important than the amount of the food consumed. 

·      Oral hygiene status-the health of our mouth

·      Availability of fluoride-in our water, toothpaste, mouth rinse, etc

·      Salivary gland function-saliva helps wash away food from our teeth and decreases the acidity or pH our mouth

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Sugar News Updates

 Here are some of the findings from the National Academy of Sciences has about areas of concern with high sugar intake and its affect on health:

bulletCancer: The panel cited five studies showing a higher incidence of colorectal cancer among heavy sugar users. (The risk is lower for those who get their sugar from fiber-loaded sources such as fruit.) One study suggested that sugar-rich, fiber-poor foods also are associated with an increased risk of lung cancer.
bulletCholesterol: Bad news. "There is some evidence that increased sugar intake is positively associated with plasma triglycerol and low-density lipoprotein [LDL] cholesterol concentration," the panel reported. Those are the "bad cholesterols" that can contribute to heart disease.  Sugars, particularly sucrose and fructose, raise triacylglycerol more so than starches.~
bulletDiabetes: Sugar doesn't cause it, but eating too many calories --- from sweeteners, fat and all sources --- can certainly lead to obesity, which heightens the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
bulletDiet: Increased consumption of added sugars can lead to a decreased intake of vital nutrients. One federal study shows that teenage girls, for example, replace milk with sweetened soft drinks as they move into adolescence, setting themselves up for later bone loss.
bulletHyperactivity: It appears to have no scientific basis. Two dozen studies have concluded that sugar consumption does not lead to behavioral problems such as attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder. In fact, sugar can act as a sedative. 
bulletObesity:  The panel reviewed dozens of studies and found mixed results when it comes to proving a direct link between added sugars and obesity. Part of the cloudy picture may be a data problem; in surveys, people tend to underreport what they've eaten, especially guilty pleasure foods like snacks and desserts. The panel did single out one food: sugared soft drinks. Two studies have suggested that they promote obesity, perhaps because liquids don't fill you up as much as solid food.
bulletTooth decay: Your dentist was right: Prolonged exposure to sugary foods, especially those that stick to the teeth, promotes cavities. Starches can have the same effect when they ferment and produce acids that eat away at the enamel. The risk is related to the form, retentiveness, composition of the sugar.  Sugar provides fuel for the action of oral bacteria, which in turn lowers plaque and salivary pH., which in turn can start tooth demineralization. The key is getting sugars and starches off the teeth quickly by --- all together now --- brushing. So why hasn't our growing sweet tooth produced a catastrophic rise in dental caries? Probably because of better oral hygiene widespread water fluoridation, dairy products that act as buffers against tooth decay and sugarless chewing gum especially containing xylitol~.

Copyright 2002 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Click Sugar Recommendation to continue article.

~Sugars and Health: Is there an issue? Dr. Jones, Dr Elam, ADA August 2003 Vol 103 Number 8 pg 1058-1060
* Living in a Sugar Culture, DentalNotes Winter 2001, pg 6.

**Caries Research 36:3(2):2002, 167-169

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February 06, 2008

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PLEASE NOTE: The information contained herein is intended for educational purposes only.  It is not intended and should not be construed as the delivery of dental/medical care and is not a substitute for personal hands on dental/medical attention, diagnosis or treatment.  Persons requiring diagnosis, treatment, or with specific questions are urged to contact your family dental/health care provider for appropriate care.
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