Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Sweet Life

I remember a conversation I had once with my dental hygienist. Out of curiosity, I asked her how previous generations had cared for their teeth, professional dental hygiene being an extremely recent development, after all. She explained that they had had their own techniques for dealing with it, but that the most important factor was that they, our ancestors, didn't use sugar, so tooth decay wasn't as serious and rampant as it is today.

It's difficult to imagine a world without sugar, isn't it? For centuries, honey was the only sweetener people knew, but, unlike sugar, honey possessed certain health benefits. First cultivated in Asia, it wasn't until the eighteenth century that sugar became popular and affordable for Westerners.

Sugar has become so ubiquitous in our food today, it's rare to find an item that doesn't have it in it. Look at the ingredients of anything on a grocery store shelf, and nine times out of ten, you're going to find added sugar listed. Bread, canned vegetables, juice--my chewable vitamin C tablets! There are a lot of health reasons all that sugar is bad for us, and the threat to our teeth is just one of them.

This article describes a recent study revealing the sweet, sweet relationship that the sugar industry enjoyed with the U.S. government in the 1960's and early 70s: 
All but one member of the government task force on tooth decay also sat on the sugar industry’s expert panel, and that 78 percent of industry recommendations crept into the 1971 National Caries Program … Stanton A. Glantz, a researcher who coauthored the paper, said: “Our findings are a wake-up call for government officials…to understand that the sugar industry, like the tobacco industry, seeks to protect profits over public health.”
"Profits over public health"? Four words that I, for one, am sick of hearing.

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