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Dental Heath Week 2020 – Sugar – What’s in a Name?

This week is Dental Health Week in Australia.

It always surprises me the number of people that actually don’t understand that sugar is detrimental to our health and wellbeing.
The Cancer Council of Victoria has put out an article with this heading “One soft drink a day could increase your risk of cancer”.


It goes on to describe how increased cancer risk is not driven completely by obesity. Obesity seems to be related to particular forms of cancer, like liver, ovarian, pancreatic and gallbladder cancers. But what is interesting to note is that even people who are not overweight have an increased risk of cancer if they regularly drank soft drinks containing sugar. This is not the case for people who drink diet soft drinks, suggesting that a key contributor to these forms of cancer may not be obesity but sugar. The study analysed over 35,000 Victorians over a twelve-year period, who went on to develop 3,283 cases of these obesity-related cancers.

I often wonder when I read articles attributing obesity or poor oral health to conditions such as dementia, heart disease, diabetes, stroke or a multitude of other diseases. It always makes me think of the chicken and the egg – which came first? Does poor eating for example cause poor oral hygiene or obesity, which then causes stroke as an example, or could it be something like sugar that is in the poor diets, that causes the poor oral health, obesity and perhaps even cancer itself?

Regardless, I guess that it appears that they are all related somehow, and research supports this again and again.

There are certainly very strong links between sugar and oral health, and the general wellbeing from a health perspective of the individual as a whole.

I recommend trying to avoid sugar as much as possible. Try chewing sugar-free gum if you would like to break a soft drink habit. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try a small squeeze of lemon or lime juice. Check so-called sugar substitutes as well. These may be just as bad for you from a “sugar” point of view as they are really sugars by another name. Refer to the above chart put out by the Australian Dental Association. 

Kind regards

Dr John Wells


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