The University of PNG school
of medicine and health science
fourth-year bachelor of dental surgery student Ruth Managen recently conducted a review discussing the choice of food/beverages and dental problems as her major project under the course community oral health which was sighted by her lecturer Dr Matupi Apaio. This is her review:
It is a basic necessity to eat food to survive.
But the choices made every day on what to take affects the health and wellbeing of individuals.
Consumption of food and drinks can be nutritious and healthy as well as detrimental for the human body.
Even though certain food can contain the right type of nutrients needed, higher or lower than the normal recommended consumption can lead to serious health conditions.
One’s choice of food and beverage can be influenced by one’s socio-economic status, health condition(s), age, culture, peer influence, family, knowledge and beliefs about food and other psychological or biological determinants.
The amount of food consumed with the essential nutrients, at the right time with the amount needed is vital for one’s health.
But not everyone has the privilege to consume healthy food and drinks every day.
For instance, someone with a good paying job can be able to afford fruits and vegetables whereas people who cannot afford a healthy meal, tend to eat biscuits and soft drinks to satisfy their hunger.
It is important to eat a well-balanced diet which will provide the needed vitamins, minerals and nutrient to keep the body strong and healthy.
In a balanced diet, the consumption of these foods and drinks should be limited: added sugars, saturated fats, salt and alcoholic beverages.
Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, fruit drinks and cordial contribute significantly to sugar and energy intakes around the world without adding any nutritional value to diets.
Too much sugar intake can result in health problems such as obesity, heart diseases, diabetes and dental caries.
According to the the World Health Organisation (WHO), free sugars are the essential dietary factor in the development of dental caries.
Dental caries develops when bacteria in the mouth metabolise sugars to produce acid that demineralises the hard tissues of the teeth (enamel and dentine).
In many countries, sugars-sweetened beverages, including fruit-based and milk-based sweetened drinks and 100 per cent fruit juices, are a primary source of free sugars, as well as confectionery, cakes, biscuits, sweetened cereals, sweet desserts, sucrose, honey, syrups and preserves.
Limiting free sugars intake to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake – and ideally further, to less than 5 per cent – minimises the risk of dental caries throughout the life-course.
Severe dental caries is a frequent cause of absenteeism at school or work.
An association between dental caries and under-nutrition in children has been reported in some low- and middle-income countries; however, whether this is cause or effect, or both, remains to be determined.
Population-wide strategies to reduce free sugars consumption are the key public health approach that should be a high priority.
Because dental caries is the result of lifelong exposure to a dietary risk factor (i.e free sugars), even a small reduction in the risk of dental caries in childhood is of significance in later life; therefore, to minimise the lifelong risk of dental caries, free sugars intake should be as low as possible. The problem we have is that, we eat what we can afford without thinking about the serious effects that are gradually increasing as we continuously practice unhealthy lifestyle choices.
All in all, the health and wellbeing of individuals depend on a variety of decisions one has to make each and every day.
One of the most important decisions is the type of food we consume on a daily basis.
High consumption of free sugars and beverages are usually associated with severe health conditions later on in one’s life. As the saying goes, you are what you eat.
This signifies that our body reacts to what we introduce into it.
Thus, the high consumption of sweets and beverages can lead to dental caries, diabetes, heart failure and many more.
Therefore, it is necessary to control foods and beverages that contain a high sugar (carbohydrate) content, practice good oral hygiene (brushing teeth twice a day, flossing, etc) to reduce dental caries rate within communities and start eating a healthy, nutritious diet.