Australia is in the midst of a Sugardemic

11 October 2016

The Sugar By Half campaign, of which the ADA is a key supporter, aims to begin tackling Australia's full-blown love affair with sugar by encouraging people to reduce their consumption by half by swapping out sugary foods and drinks for healthier alternatives such as fruit, dairy, nuts and lean meat. 

It is, notes Matthew Hopcraft, an ADA member who is the founder of Sugarless Smiles and the dental advisor to the campaign, a pressing issue that needs urgent attention. 

“One in two Aussie kids have tooth decay, and decay rates have increased by more than 50% since 1996. Sugar is one of the main reasons. Sugar is absolutely everywhere. People need to realise that it’s not just about soft drinks, cakes and lollies. Processed and packaged foods are full of hidden sugar, and that is contributing to our poor health. For example, a breakfast of cereal and low fat yoghurt could easily contain more than 9 teaspoons of sugar – already well over the daily limit.” 

A failure to begin making these important changes in diet and lifestyle could have severe implications for the ongoing health of the average Aussie who consumes far in excess of the six teaspoons a day recommended by the World Health Organization. 

In fact, most Australians consume about 16 teaspoons of added sugar a day with children and teenagers taking in more than 20, leading to a growth in tooth decay, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

To highlight the severity of the issue and the urgent need for change, Sugar By Half is launching today, World Obesity Day, with a vital message that cutting the amount of sugar in your diet can have profound benefits for your oral and overall health. 

One of the most obvious advantages of reduced sugar consumption in a country where 50% of 12-year-olds have tooth decay in their adult teeth and an estimated one million days of work are lost each year to poor oral health, is reducing the incidence of tooth decay. 

Sugary foods and drinks are far and away the biggest dietary contributor to tooth decay, and their reduction in a person's diet can make a significant difference to their oral health. 

This is why it's important that dentists begin conversations with their patients about the importance of cutting their sugar intake by half. 

To help in this endeavour, there will be a particular emphasis by the ADA on the oral health benefits of reducing sugar intake including practical ways of instituting a healthier diet which will be shared along the benefits for a person's oral health via the ADA's Healthy Teeth Facebook page. For more information, go to Sugar By Half and visit the ADA's Your Dental Health for fact sheets on the benefits of reducing dietary sugar intake and tips on brushing, flossing and other key oral health messages.