The professional blog of Doctors Dan Bruce, Steve Bruce, Rosa Pothier and Rob Ririe
The affects of sugar and artificial sugars on your whole body
In this blog post, I decided to interview Dr. Angela House, a family physician in Eagle who focuses on nutrition. Many of the things that occur in our bodies affect different biologic systems. For example, smoking can affect both the lungs and periodontal structures of the mouth. Refined sugars are another example. I asked Dr. House for some information on how sugars affect other areas of your body besides your teeth.
Dr. Dan Bruce: We all know refined sugars can cause tooth decay, but what are other ways they can affect your body?
Dr. House: There is evidence that refined sugar contributes to tooth decay, obesity, nutrient deficiencies, and hypoglycemia. It appears to play a role in increasing total cholesterol levels, decreasing HDL (good cholesterol) levels and in the development of diabetes. Refined sugars, along with chemical additives such as artificial colors and flavors are also suspected of causing behavioral problems in children. Various studies in public schools have demonstrated that classroom performance has improved when junk food was taken out of their school lunch program.
Dr. Dan Bruce: Are diet drinks a good alternative to sugars? If not, why?
Dr. House: Diet drinks often contain artificial sweeteners, including NutraSweet, Splenda, Acesulfame, and Sweet N'Low. These artificial sweeteners can disrupt the body's ability to gage calories and lead to overeating. There have been allergic reactions associated with the use of these sweeteners. Use of artificial sweeteners also encourages our taste buds to desire more foods with a very sweet taste. It is important to read the ingredient labels on all food and drink.
Dr. Dan Bruce: In addition, diet soft drinks are often very acidic, so they are eat away at the enamel of the teeth, often leading to sensitivity or chemical erosion. If you have to have a soft drink (diet or regular), it is recommended to not sip your drink for long periods of time and swish your mouth with water after you are done to remove residual sugars.
Dr. Dan Bruce: If you want to sweeten your food or drinks, what is the best way to do it? What products can be used safely as sweeteners?
Dr. House: When making choices, choose lower glycemic index and/or naturally occurring sweets over refined sweets, e.g., fruit juice or fruit, pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup, fructose, barley malt, stevia (an herb), agave nectar, or date sugar.
Final thoughts on sugar
From a dental perspective, simple carbohydrates (sugars) are "eaten" by bacterial plaque. The byproduct is acid, which causes decay. Some people have more "decay causing" bacteria and are more susceptible to cavities. Other factors that affect the decay rate in people are genetics, home care, fluoride, diet, saliva make-up and others. Making good choices in sugar consumption is definitely good for your teeth and also for your body as a whole.