Sugar linked to rising obesity levels

May 5th, 2015

These days, our TV screens are filled with images of people tackling obesity taking part in extreme exercise regimes. Magazine front pages grab our attention with shocking ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures or lycra clad sports enthusiasts. Recently however, the BBC has published comments from the British Journal of Sports Medicine which presented an updated viewpoint: ‘physical activity has little role in tackling obesity’ and the focus rather should be on improving eating habits, particularly sugar and carbohydrate consumption.

The journal proposes that calorie counting is not a helpful approach to managing diet and weight, rather it is the source of the calories consumed that is the key factor. For example: eating 100 calories worth of a high sugar food such as sweets or cake would be more likely to lead to a sustained or increased weight than 100 calories of a lower sugar food for example, carrots . This is despite the fact you’d be able to consume a higher number of grams of carrot for the same number of calories. Many make the mistake of keeping their calories low, but eating a diet that doesn’t provide the nutrients their body needs to stay healthy and free from disease.

The British Journal of Sports Medicine also highlighted evidence from the Lancet global burden of disease programme which indicates that unhealthy eating was strongly linked to more ill health than physical activity, alcohol and smoking combined. Research has also found that the risk of diabetes increases more than ten times for every additional 150 sugar calories consumed compared to fat calories.

So all this sugar is clearly not good for our waistlines, but what is the cost to our teeth? High consumption of sugary foods and drinks is a key factor that leads to tooth decay. This decay is caused when the enamel and dentine from our teeth are softened by the acids in foods and drinks that contain sugar. Over time, these acids gradually dissolve the enamel and dentine, leading to tooth damage. This could eventually lead to the tooth needing to be filled, or in more severe cases, being removed.

It is important to visit your dentist regularly, as the early signs of tooth decay are not always possible to spot yourself: there are no symptoms that you will feel at this initial stage. Dentists are able to pick up small cavities early on, through examination or x-ray. It is much easier to treat a smaller cavity earlier on, than to manage advanced decay in its later stages. As cavities in your teeth become more serious, you may start to experience symptoms such as sensitive teeth, toothache or possibly a dental abscess.

Overall the message is clear: sugar is not good. As well as being a key factor in our increasing waistlines, and contributing to likelihood of developing certain diseases, sugar spells bad news for our teeth too. For the sake of our oral health, and that of our whole body, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on our sugar intake and look for ways to reduce it.

For more information on how to manage your diet to promote good oral health, please visit the British Dental Health Foundation website.

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