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The sugar-free myth

By October 24, 2011 January 2nd, 2020 No Comments

Products marketed as sugar-free are not always what they’re cracked up to be, according to a recent study that says they have the ability to cause dental erosion and gastric upset while having a minimal impact on weight-loss.

Publishing their findings in the British Dental Journal, a team of US researchers discovered that popular sugar-free foods, beverages and confectionary often contain additives that are as harmful as sugar when it comes to dental health.

“The public’s perception is that they will never cause any dental harm. However, that may be a misconception when those products contain acidic additives…Acids dissolve the calcium in the enamel and cause erosion. Whether sugar-free or sugar-containing, if the products contain acidic additives, we are delivering these acids on a platter.”

The researchers stress that it’s not the substitutes themselves – sugar alcohols or “polyols” such as sorbitol and xylitol – that cause the damage, but rather the additional ingredients that give many of these products their fruity or sour taste. ..”Polyols are not the guilty party. What is added to them to create the fruit-like taste is the problem,” says Janket, adding that duration is also a key factor. “The longer the product stays in the mouth the more harm it will cause. For example, fruit-flavoured lollipops are the worst. Chewing gums are less problematic because…

Public assumption that sugar-free treats are automatically beneficial to weight management is also a concern, she says. Though polyols are not easily absorbed in the small intestine, making them useful when it comes to avoiding blood sugar spike in the diabetic population, they offer a false sense of security when it comes to overall calorie intake…

Though the general level of oral health in Australia has improved over the past few decades, dentists have reported an upswing in dental decay that can be explained, at least in part, by the nation’s increased intake of products containing the aforementioned additives…But it’s not all bad news for proponents of sugar substitutes, with researchers concluding that if there’s an absence of these additives, and they are consumed in moderation, consumers can avoid much of the negative impact.

“Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water,” says Janket. “Most sugar-free products are tooth-friendly. Only those flavoured with acidic additives are potentially dangerous as far as dental erosion is concerned. Like everything else, the public should be informed and read the ingredients.”..Read more

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