Erin Eid RDH, Contemporary General Dentistry
Recently the August 2013 edition of National Geographic cover caught my eye; it read “Sugar why we can’t resist it”. The article was entitled “Sugar Love: A Not So Sweet Tale” by Rich Cohen. I found this article fascinating because it is one of the biggest internal battles we all face, “I want it but I know I shouldn’t have it”. I would like to start by assuring all our patients that when we discuss reducing sugar intake at your dental appointments to reduce the risk of tooth decay, we are not being judgmental. We understand how difficult it is to make good choices for our dental and overall health. We are inundated with an overwhelming amount of yummy sugary goodness on a daily basis in stores, on bill boards, on the radio and in television advertisements. To emphasize the point that no one is perfect, I would like to share something that as a dental professional I was completely disappointed to read. A dentist was co-inventor of the cotton candy machine, the horror of it all! It just goes to show we are all vulnerable to the lure of that time old seductress sugar. I would like to share some of the facts about your health’s arch enemy, the villain we all share a love hate relationship with, sugar. A high sugar diet leads to higher incidents of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. These health conditions are directly related to the way our bodies process high volumes of high fructose corn syrup (refined processed sugar) we consume. This article sites a study conducted by a nutrition expert John Yukon in the 1960’s. This research indicated that animals and people with high sugar diets will have higher fat and cholesterol levels in their blood. This was overlooked by other researchers who had found a link between obesity and heart disease to cholesterol from too much saturated fat in diets. As a result Americans have reduced saturated fats in their diets without reducing sugar intake. As a result we have not seen a significant improvement in health aliments. Be careful when reaching for items in the grocery store that say low fat, these items usually have more sugar to improve the taste of the missing fat.
One of the most common offenders in our diets is soda. This tempting drink is easily accessible and has an average of 7.3 to 10 teaspoons in a 12 ounce serving. The average American has 22.7 teaspoons of sugar daily and consumes 77 pounds of added sugar yearly. It was not shocking to read that 3 Oreo cookies have 2.49 tsp of sugar, but the fact that Oreos have less sugar than low fat fruit yogurt at 6.16 tsp blew my mind. This article explains that glucose is metabolized by all cells of our body, whereas fructose is broken down and stored in the liver as triglycerides, over time this can lead to a fatty dysfunctional liver. Triglycerides that enter the blood increase blood pressure and insulin resistance.
Why is it so hard to say no to sweets? It was fascinating to read one section of the article that addressed why it is so easy to get addicted to sugar. We crave sugar because it stimulates the part of the brain that makes us feel pleasure. The same spot that responds to drugs like cocaine or heroin. I, like you, fight the temptation of addictive sugar. Here are some helpful tips I found on web MD that can help us all manage craving of refined processed sugars. I hope we can all find ways to live healthier and decay free lives. If you are interested in reading it entirely it can be found on: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/13-ways-to-fight-sugar-cravings
- Eat a bit of what you’re craving. Try to stick to a 150-calorie threshold try mixing some almonds with chocolate chips
- Go cold turkey. Can work for some people, however the initial 48 to 72 hours can be the toughest. For most cravings diminish after a few days
- Chew some sugarless gum. For an extra benefit why not choose a gum with xylitol so you can fight decay and cravings in one shot.
- Reach for fruit. Keep fruit handy for when sugar cravings hit. You'll get fiber and nutrients along with some sweetness. Stock up on foods like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.
- Get active. Distract yourself by going for a walk or exercising.
- Choose quality over quantity. Keep it small. Choose a dark chocolate truffle instead of a king-sized candy bar, eat small bites, and take time to really savor your special treat.
- Eat regularly. Waiting too long between meals may set you up to choose sugary, fatty foods that cut your hunger. Choose protein, fiber-rich foods like whole grains and produce.
- Skip artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can increase your cravings for sugar
- Reward yourself for successfully managing sugar cravings.
- Slow down. For one week, focus on your sugar cravings and think about what you’re eating.
- Get support. Talk to your primary care physician. Many people turn to sweet foods when they're stressed, depressed, or angry.
- Mix it up. Have multiple strategies to beat the sugar cravings. Figure out what works for you.
By Contemporary General Dentistry
December 5, 2013