Sugar tax 2018: what happens to your body if you cut out ‘added sugar’ (and how to do it)
So the sugar tax has kicked in and those craving their daily fix of sweet fizz will now either have to pay more for it (Coke/Pepsi), or accept that revised recipes (Irn-Bru, Lucozade) are now altogether less sugary than before.
This has, of course, got the nation talking (and thinking) about sugar: how the average UK adult eats twice as much sugar as is recommended; how excess sugar consumption can lead to obesity, to diabetes, to heart disease; how fat doesn’t make you fat, it’s sugar that’s the culprit…
Not only that, but what about our teeth?
“Sugar is not a problem [in] itself but what it triggers, feeding some specific kinds of bacteria – the bad bacteria,” says Cosmetic Dental Surgeon, Dr. Nina. “Our mouth is populated by a huge amount of good and bad bacteria and it’s a constant battle between them. Bad bacteria uses sugar to stick to the walls of enamel on our teeth and create acids which erode our teeth’s surfaces and create decays.”
With all this in mind, many might now be considering cutting down on ‘added sugar’ – for good.
If you are such a person, take heed of the information, and advice, below…
How to cut down your ‘added sugar’intake
A simple idea in theory, cutting out added sugar can present a number of challenges. Namely because added sugar can be found in all-manner of unlikely foodstuffs. Quitting chocs, sweets and fizzy drinks? Easy enough. But did you know sugar can be found in pre-made salad dressings, fruit yoghurts, nut selections and crisps? And let’s not forget also, alcohol…
How to get passed this hurdle? As Dr Kim Glass, Lead GP at Bupa Health Clinics, says: start small and set yourself mini-goals. “For example, if on average you eat the equivalent of 10 cubes of sugar a day, try cutting that down to eight for the first week, then each week, reduce this number further.”
She continues, “If you take a gradual approach to cutting down, you may not notice much of a difference within the first couple of weeks, but your body will thank you for being healthier!”
Whilst it might be tempting at first to do a blanket ban on all things sugar-related, Dr Glass advises against this. “It’s important to only cut down on the sugars that are added to your food and drinks, and not cut out naturally occurring sugar, like fruit, milk and whole foods.”
How to combat cravings
You’re in the office. It’s someone’s birthday. There’s a cake. It’s chocolate. And it’s being passed around… “Oh go on!” your colleague cries. “Just a little sliver. It’s my birthday…”
Sugar can be hard to resist. However, Dr. Glass confirms you shouldn’t experience any “negative side effects”, should you decide to give it up. It’s not like “weaning off an addictive substance, like caffeine,” she says.
What you’re usually craving are calories – not the sugar itself. “If you crave something sweet, swap your chocolate bar for something naturally sweet, like strawberries or a banana sprinkled with cinnamon,” Dr. Glass suggests.
Will you lose weight?
Most likely. If you cut out added sugars from your diet, you could lose as much as a few kilos. “This is simply because you’ve reduced the amount of calories you eat each day,” says Dr. Glass.
She adds: “Added sugars are high in calories and your body processes them more quickly than other energy producing foods, like fruit and nuts. After having a sugary treat, your energy levels will peak and fall much quicker than if you had an apple, and you’ll find that you feel hungry again much sooner.”
What happens if you go ‘cold turkey’?
This is a challenge, although not altogether impossible. “In the first week you may feel like you have less energy, especially if you don’t replace the sugar with a natural energy source,” says Dr. Glass. “You shouldn’t experience withdrawals or headaches, but you may find it tough to stay motivated.
“It can take up to 66 days to form a habit, so if you can maintain the motivation to cut added sugar altogether, you’ll be on the home stretch after about three months.”
A quarter of a year? It’s not that long – is it?
Remember, though, to talk to a health expert before making any dramatic changes to your diet.
How will cutting out added sugar affect your teeth?
As Eddie Coyle, Clinical Director at Bupa Dental Care, says: “Every time you eat something sweet, your mouth’s pH levels increase sharply in acidity and can take up to an hour to return back to a healthy rate. This acidity can result in tooth decay – particularly if you eat sweet things throughout the day as your mouth doesn’t have enough time to recover.”
By cutting out added sugar, tooth demineralisation (caused by this sugar consumption) can be prevented by saliva remineralisation. As Dr. Nina explains: “The saliva is a buffer which constantly stabilises [the] pH of the mouth and works against the acids. The teeth aren’t eroded, plaque is reduced and gums are healthier and less inflamed.”
That said, of course, saliva alone cannot prevent tooth decay. “Teeth need to be brushed at least every 12 hours to remove the plaque formed,’ says Dr. Nina, “and once every six months, professionally [by a] dentist.”
Is it possible to reverse damage caused to teeth by sugar?
In part. This can occur if we stimulate more saliva production – key to tackling and reversing the decay process – and we can do this “by eating lots of vegetables, especially the fibrous ones,” Dr. Nina explains.
She also advises eating dairy – such as yoghurts – which contains calcium to strengthen our teeth. However, the main ingredient in helping to reverse the early stages of tooth decay is, of course, fluoride.
Brushing with a fluoride-based toothpaste twice a-day is advised by Dr. Nina, and if needs be, she says visit a qualified dentist who can apply fluoride direct to your mouth arches.