What Evidence is there Linking Diet with Decay?

We all know that sugar is bad for your teeth and that it can cause decay and dental cavities if you have too much, too often, but what is the actual evidence for this? That's what we are going to look at here...

Throughout history the link between sugar in the diet and dental caries or dental decay has been observed. Have you seen skulls of prehistoric- man, do you remember seeing lots of missing teeth? Nope- because it wasn’t a problem for them, as cakes, biscuits and fizzy pop weren’t on the menu.

There are groups of people and tribes that exist today with virtually no dental caries but throughout western society it is epidemic.

Rations during the war led to a decrease in caries. Eskimos had little or no problem due to their diet of fish, meat and available plants- well, until the introduction of sugar, which saw a rise in dental caries.

Here are a couple of human controlled studies that led to ] as we know it:

Hopewood House- 1% of 12 year old children attending a special boarding school called Hopewood House had caries, compared to 46% in state schools due to the low sugar diet they ate. When the children left the school they developed caries at the same rate as all the other children.

Vipeholm Study- This study is so immoral and unethical that it will never be repeated. However, it led to some quite clear conclusions. 436 patients were fed the same diet at the start of the study, before being split into 6 groups:

1. Bread group- at meal times
RESULT- very low increase in caries

2. Sucrose group- sweets and drinks at meal times only
RESULT- very low increase in caries

3. Chocolate group- between meals
RESULT- triple increase in caries

4. Caramel group- between meals
RESULT- huge increase in caries- experiment stopped!

5. Toffee group - some between meals, some with meals
RESULT- increase in caries between meals, less with meals

6. Toffee group - eaten anytime
RESULT- increase in caries was much more, when eaten between meals.

So what can we conclude from these results?

  • Lots of sugar at mealtimes = only small increase in dental caries
  • Lots of sugar in between meals = large increase in dental caries
  • Caries will vary from person to person and exact amount is hard to predict
  • New caries disappears if sugar rich food is taken away
  • Caries increases with sticky sugary foods.

KEY POINT- It's not so much the amount of sugar you have, more the frequency that causes tooth problems. The Stephan Curve will help you understand exactly why this is.

Two major reports that underly all the diet advice we are going to give you:

1. COMA report- Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy

2. NACNE report- National Advisory Committee on Nutritional Education