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Sugar Rots Your Teeth. Sugar Kills. So Don’t Eat It.

Summary:
I have written a lot about the other health dangers of sugar. Here are some of the other posts:But there is one other health danger from sugar that everyone agrees on, but most people have chosen to ignore as a big toll of sugar: tooth damage. Ever since I have gone off sugar, bread, rice, potatoes and all the processed foods that say on the package that they have a substantial amount of sugar, my dentist has been surprised by what good shape my teeth are in when I go in for a regular checkup. It makes a difference to your teeth when you eat right!The causes of the dramatic rise in obesity over the last century are controversial. But it is hard

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Sugar Rots Your Teeth. Sugar Kills. So Don't Eat It.

I have written a lot about the other health dangers of sugar. Here are some of the other posts:

But there is one other health danger from sugar that everyone agrees on, but most people have chosen to ignore as a big toll of sugar: tooth damage.

Ever since I have gone off sugar, bread, rice, potatoes and all the processed foods that say on the package that they have a substantial amount of sugar, my dentist has been surprised by what good shape my teeth are in when I go in for a regular checkup. It makes a difference to your teeth when you eat right!

The causes of the dramatic rise in obesity over the last century are controversial. But it is hard to explain without looking at the rise in sugar consumption. Some explanations that sound different really include sugar: many scholars talk about the increasing palatability of food, where “palatability” refers in important measure to the superstimulus from sugar added to food. Others talk about highly processed food. From what I see looking around my local grocer store, it seems that 90% of highly processed food contains a substantial amount of sugar. And increased variety of food has come largely from the proliferation of different kinds of processed food. And if the only foods that had become cheaper were those with no sugar in them, I doubt there would be an obesity effect from declining food prices.

The one variable that could contribute a lot to explaining the rise in obesity that is fully distinct from increased use of sugar over the last century is the expansion of the average eating window to eating from soon after waking to shortly before going to bed, instead of having eating more nearly confined to three regular meals. (That is not to say that three meals without snacking is as good as an even more compressed eating window; but it is better than eating from right after waking to shortly before retiring for the night.) The upward trend average length of the eating window, for which, unfortunately, there is no readily available time series, could explain rising obesity during some of the more recent periods when sugar consumption has declined somewhat. (No readily available times series doesn’t at all mean it is impossible to gather evidence. Gathering that evidence would be a noble task for an economic historian.)

As a side note, in addition to sugar rotting our teeth, eating soft food (along with bad tongue posture) may be making our teeth crooked. See:

We treat our tooth problems (and the dental and orthodontic treatment they occasion) as if they were a law of nature. But Charles Gemmi, in the article flagged at the top of this post, reminds us:

Humans have a long history of brushing our teeth and an even longer history of not doing it at all. For thousands of years, our ancestors had no concept of dental care. You might think that they suffered as a result, but there’s actually no evidence to suggest that people from those early eras had any dental health problems at all. Why is that?

It really comes down to diet. Our ancestors had no GMO-filled fast foodsno baked goods, and no processed products of any kind. The foods they ate didn’t contain harmful additives or chemicals and were completely all-natural. Whatever they found is what they ate.

This meant that they weren’t deficient in the vitamins and minerals that promote oral health like calcium and phosphorus. They all got their daily allowances of fruits and vegetables. The tough, fibrous foods they ate also got their mouths moving, scraping their teeth on accident and preventing plaque buildup that leads to tooth decay in the modern mouth.

With the rise of sugar-dense foods and the increasing lack of basic mineral nutrition in the modern diet, it’s no wonder that dentists and orthodontists are recommending that people brush their teeth for at least 2 minutes at a time and at least twice a day.

… a modern diet means the modern necessity of brushing your teeth every day. 

Next time you go to the dentist, remember the contribution that sugar makes to the necessity of going as often as you do—and especially how often you go to get a cavity filled or to undergo a more painful procedure. Going off sugar could easily add many years to your life. And going off sugar could easily add many years to your teeth.

If you are convinced and want to go off sugar, I have some posts meant to help you:

The really big gains in health come from also shortening your eating window and doing occasional longer fasts. But going off sugar, bread, rice and potatoes makes that much, much easier. So, although a logically distinct strategy, in practice a shorter eating window and occasional longer fasts is not a totally separate thing from going off sugar.

For annotated links to other posts on diet and health, see:

Miles Kimball
Miles Kimball is Professor of Economics and Survey Research at the University of Michigan. Politically, Miles is an independent who grew up in an apolitical family. He holds many strong opinions—open to revision in response to cogent arguments—that do not line up neatly with either the Republican or Democratic Party.

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