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Sugar in teeth of fresh controversy

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By Rod Addy+

Last updated on 19-Jun-2014 at 10:46 GMT

Tooth decay is one of the most widespread health problems
Tooth decay is one of the most widespread health problems

Anti-sugar campaigners are targeting the damage it can do to teeth as well as tackling its contribution to obesity in the UK.

Sugars were undoubtedly the most important dietary factor in the development of dental decay, supporters of Action on Sugar (AoS) claimed, stepping up pressure on manufacturers to reduce added sugar levels in products.

Studies indicated treating dental decay accounted for 6–10% of total health costs in industrialised countries, even though there had been a decline in dental decay levels in many countries, they said.

“Added sugars are completely unnecessary in our diets and are strongly linked to dental decay as well as to obesity and type II diabetes,” said nutritionist and AoS campaign director Katharine Jenner.

“We urge the World Health Organisation and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in the UK to take this evidence on board.”

‘Widespread health problems’

Professor Aubrey Sheiham, emeritus professor of dental public health, added: Tooth decay is one of the most widespread health problems and it is thought around a third of UK children aged 12 have visible tooth decay.”

Sheiham’s comments coincided with a new paper he co-authored with Professor Philip James of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, both expert advisors to the AoS, published in the Public Health Nutrition journal.

The paper , ‘A new understanding of the relationship between sugars, dental caries and fluoride use: implications for limits on sugars consumption’ (Public Health Nutrition 2014:1-9), called for sugar intake to constitute less than 3% of adult energy intake or four teaspoons a day.

The amount is below the draft World Health Organisation’s guideline of less than 5% of energy intake (25g of sugar).

Sheiham said: “The recommendation that sugar intake should be less than 10% of energy intake is no longer acceptable. Nutrition advice on sugar needs to be renewed now – added sugar intake should be at least less than 5% of energy intake. 

‘Take action now’

“Added sugar has found its way into almost all food, and the use of sugar as a means to calm, entertain, or reward children has become normalised, whereas sugar should be an occasional treat. The government must stop acting in the best interests of the food and drink industry rather than individuals, and take action on sugar now.”

The Food Manufacture Group is holding a free, one-hour obesity webinar, Obesity and health: the big fat, sugar and salt debate, to be broadcast at 11am GMT on Thursday July 3.

Panel members include AoS chairman Professor Graham MacGregor and Professor Alan Jackson, director, National Institute for Health Research, Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

Register for your free place here . There is no limit to delegate numbers and, once registered, delegates will be able to listen to the online event at any time after its first transmission.

Attendees will be able to submit questions for panel members during the broadcast, or in advance, to .

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