Understanding Your Sweet Tooth So You Can Keep Your Teeth (Part 1 of 3)

Boulder Dentist Serving Denver, Ft. Collins & Nearby Areas in Colorado

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Continuing education is an important part of any dental practice – or at least it should be.  For our team appreciation day – our team went to a seminar hosted by the Mile High Dental Study Club of which our own periodontist Dr. Brown is the director.  The speaker David Meinz, MS, RD, FADA, CSP is a frequent guest on radio and television.  He speaks internationally to audiences about how to live life to the fullest with maximum energy and health.  He has a Master’s Degree (MS) in human nutrition from the University of Missouri; he’s a Registered Dietitian (RD), and a Fellow in the American Dietetic Association (FADA).  He’s also received the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Association.  The seminar was titled “What Good is a Dead Patient with Perfect Teeth?”  David covered the fundamentals and the latest about the food that we and our patients eat.  This title is not to say that we don’t want our patients to have perfect teeth but that we understand that there is a body and a person attached to that mouth and we want our patients to be as healthy and live as long as they can.

The seminar was very informative.  David was very knowledgeable and was a fun speaker.  It was no surprise for me to learn that I don’t eat as healthy as I should (although in some areas I am doing better then I thought) but David’s jokes made it an easier pill to swallow.  I found the information very helpful and so wanted to share this information with my patients.  Since a four hour seminar contains more information then one blog can contain I have broken it down into a three part series: Part I – Sugar; Part II – Carbohydrates and Fat, and Smoking; Part III – Goals, Exercise and the Overall Picture.

Part I –  

Understanding Your Sweet Tooth So You Can Keep Your Teeth

Sugar

I was surprised to learn that he promoted bringing back the sugar bowl.  He said that 1 teaspoon of sugar was equal to 4 grams.  If you look on the back of your sugary cereals the serving size is usually ¾ a cup of cereal and for me my actual serving size is about double that.  On one cereal I looked at it said that there were 22g of sugar per serving size, so that means if I eat double the serving size stated that I am eating 11 teaspoons of sugar!  I am a sugar fan but that is even more then I would put in.  David said that if you buy the unsweetened version of your kids (or your) favorite cereal and then let them add as much sugar from the sugar bowl as they want that it will still be less sugar then what they would have consumed by eating the sweetened version.  Besides most of the sugar from the sugar bowl ends up in the bottom of the bowl.

Don’t drink you calories!  David said that your body doesn’t get the same feed back from what you drink as it does from what you eat.  If you eat something then your body registers the calories and tells you when you are full but it does not do that when you drink so you end up taking in more calories then you should.  He called soda liquid candy because it gives you no nutritional value but you take in calories, sugar, and sodium.  Another thing that surprised me was that juice is not as good for you as I thought.  David was saying that your body treats liquids different from solid food so your body isn’t absorbing as many nutrients as you would if you ate the same fruit you are drinking so you are just getting the sugar and calories.  If you wouldn’t eat 6 oranges in one sitting then why drink it.  Also if you look at the back of most juice boxes it is rarely 100% juice with no preservatives or other additives.  At least if you eat it then you get the fiber too.

David said that he didn’t recommend sugar because it is something that we can live without but since most of us don’t want to then at least try to limit your intake.  So what about sugar substitutes, how do they compare?  There are four main types of sugar replacements that he covered: Saccharin, Aspartame (Nutrasweet/Equal), Sucalose (Splenda), and Stevia (Truvia/Purevia).  Saccharin is 0 calories and is 200-700x sweeter then sugar – not currently as popular as it once was.  Aspartame, more commonly known as the ingredient in Nutrasweet and Equal, is 0 calories and about 200x sweeter then sugar.  Sucralose know by the brand name of Splenda is also 0 calories and 600x sweeter then sugar.  The natural choice and the one that David recommended was Stevia which is a natural extract from the Stevia plant and the current brand names are TruVia and Purevia.  It is 300x sweeter then sugar and is a natural sweetener.  Stevia has been around for a while but used to only be available at specialty natural food stores.  It is now more commercially available and the companies have removed the slight licorice aftertaste that it has naturally.  None of the sugar replacements will raise your blood sugar or promote dental cavities because your body doesn’t recognize it as sugar so usually flushes it out instead of turning it into calories.

Polyols otherwise known as sugar alcohols are neither a true sugar nor an alcohol but is a group of carbohydrates that end with “ol” such as Xylitol.  They have low digestibility and can have GI effects if consumed in large amounts.  On average they are about 2 calories per gram versus 4 cal/g of other carbohydrates, or 4 cal/g for protein, or 9 cal/g for fats.  They are less sweet then sucrose and are often used to replace sugars and provide bulk.  They are commonly used in products that are labeled “surgar free” but remember that this doesn’t mean that the product is necessarily calorie free or free of carbohydrates.  Polyols do not promote tooth decay because they are not readily converted to acids by bacteria in your mouth.  For this reason, many “sugar free” gums such as Orbit, Extra, and Eclipse use Xylitol to sweeten their produce and promote cavity prevention.  Gums made only with Xylitol are best for preventing decay if chewed after meals but it looses its flavor very quickly.  Most gums advertising that they are made with Xylitol will also have other sugars and preservatives to have the flavor last so are not as good for preventing decay.

Honey and agave nectar may seem like a better more natural choice instead of refined sugar but as far as your body is concerned it treats it the same.  Agave Nectar is 20 calories per teaspoon, in comparison to sugar which is only 16 calories per teaspoon.  In addition, it is higher in fructose then high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and not high in nutrients.  Honey has the same components of sugar – glucose and fructose.  It is 22 calories per teaspoon and only has “trace” nutrients.  Although the thought has never bothered me, David did point out that honey is essentially bee spit because honey is made from nectar that has been broken down into simple sugars using an enzyme in the bee’s saliva.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has gotten a lot of publicity in the media of resent because it has been debated as to how bad it is for you.  As the name describes, HFCS is made from corn and is found in most processed food because it is cheaper then sugar and corn is subsidized by the government.  HFCS is 45% glucose and 55% fructose so very similar to the make up of sugar.  It is debatable if there are any health problems with HFCS but HFCS isn’t necessary “bad” itself it is mostly the highly processed food that it put in that are not good for you.  Eat closer to how something grows and it is better for you.

Stop smoking, eating healthy and getting in shape has got to be the top three the most popular New Year’s resolutions.  At the seminar hosted by the Mile High Dental Study Club, the speaker David Meinz, MS, RD, FADA, CSP, discussed these issues and how to make these resolutions a reality.  He is a frequent guest on radio and television and speaks internationally to audiences about how to live life to the fullest with maximum energy and health.  He has a Master’s Degree (MS) in human nutrition from the University of Missouri; he’s a Registered Dietitian (RD), and a Fellow in the American Dietetic Association (FADA).  He’s also received the Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation from the National Speakers Association.  The seminar was titled “What Good is a Dead Patient with Perfect Teeth?”  David covered the fundamentals and the latest about the food that we and our patients eat.  This title is not to say that we don’t want our patients to have perfect teeth but that we understand that there is a body and a person attached to that mouth and we want our patients to be as healthy and live as long as they can.

The seminar was very informative.  Part II continues the discussion about carbohydrates, fat, and smoking.  I found the information very helpful and so wanted to share this information with my patients.

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