The sweetest poison – the relationship between sugar and health


Sugar and health

In part one of this series, Chris Harper looks into the relationship of sugar and health and the impact of sugar on oral and general health.

Our bodies are hardwired to see sugar as a reward and find consuming sweet foods pleasurable. Tens of thousands of years ago, this gave us an evolutionary advantage. But this was when food may have been scarce.

Even foetuses show signs of enjoying sugar when injected into the amniotic fluid (Liley, 1972). However, in our plentiful and sedentary modern world, our high-sugar diets are putting not only our teeth, but also our overall health at risk.

Sugar is metabolised by oral bacteria, such as streptococcus mutans, releasing acid as a by-product. Over time this puts you at risk of dental caries. This is the line that is taught to dental students throughout the world and indeed it is true. But is also a massive oversimplification of a vital part of dental health.

In my experience, almost nothing is taught in dental schools about how sugar impacts on general health and mental function. The aim of this article is to expand on this topic. Is so vital to understand to both provide better care for our patients and to allow us to take better care of our own bodies.

I have decided to completely eliminate refined sugar from my diet and I will explain why.

There are two parts to this article, you can find the next installment on too. There I will explain how you can do the same – or at least massively reduce your sugar intake – without depriving yourself of foods you love.

What is sugar?

‘Sugar’ is a term for a select group of carbohydrates and within that…

This Content is Exclusive to Dentistry Club Members

The Dentistry Club is free to join and lets you access our premium content including cutting edge editorial, leading clinical cases and the biggest stories in dentistry.

Get Started
Get the most out of your membership by subscribing to Dentistry CPD
  • Access 600+ hours of verified CPD courses
  • Includes all GDC recommended topics
  • Powerful CPD tracking tools included
Register for webinar
Add to calendar