DentalCare Logo

The Truth about Hidden Sugars: A Risk for Health

Course Number: 558

A Risk for Health Implications

Dental Decay

Pediatric dental disease is the #1 chronic childhood illness in America.14 More than 40% of children have dental caries by the time they reach kindergarten.14 In the United States alone, emergency department care for dental complaints cost up to 2.1 billion dollars.14 According to a recent study of hidden sugars in drinks marketed to children, dental caries is one of the most common reasons for children in the UK to be admitted to the hospital emergency room.2 Consumption of free sugars, particularly in the form of sweetened beverages replaces more nutritional foods and leads to unhealthy eating patterns, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and the likelihood of health problems in adolescences and becoming overweight or obese adults

Sugar Fact #4

Growing evidence suggests that too much sugar over time can put you at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and unwanted weight gain.5


There is increasing research to show that it’s the free sugars in foods rather than the fat in our diet that is the major contributing health risk inflicting our population.8 In a study of 43 obese children, calories were maintained but sugars were reduced from 28% to 10%, resulting in improved cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and insulin levels.3 Previous research has also linked added sugars with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. In one study when individuals consumed 17 to 21% of their calories from added sugars, it increased their risk by 38% of dying from cardiovascular disease verses those who kept their intake of sugars at the recommended levels.3


According to a review in the Journal of Endocrinology, when we consume too much refined sugar, the excess can increase levels of pro-inflammatory messengers called cytokines.11 Sugar also suppresses our white blood cells, weakening our immune system, and make us more susceptible to infectious diseases.11 A simple solution is replacing high-glycemic foods for low- glycemic index alternatives, like whole grains and foods with healthy fat, protein, and fiber. Another study in the Journal of Nutrition discovered that on an equal calorie diet, overweight participants who ate a low-glycemic index diet reduced levels of the inflammatory biomarker C-reactive protein whereas participants on a high-glycemic diet did not.11 The Glycemic Index (GI) is a rating system from 0 to 100 that measures how much a carbohydrate raises blood sugar levels. Proteins and fats are considered zero GI foods. Most whole fruits and vegetables are considered low (55 or lower) to medium (56-69) glycemic-index foods with the exception of dates, kiwi, watermelon, potatoes, rutabaga, parsnips, and pumpkin, which are consider high-glycemic index foods (70 or higher). Processed foods and refined carbohydrates are considered high GI foods.13


A person’s risk of developing both type 1 and type 2 diabetes affects the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels. While sugar does not directly cause diabetes, it may increase the risk of developing the condition by causing weight gain. The American Diabetes Association offers these guidelines:12

  • Choose complex carbohydrates with a low or medium glycemic index

  • Eat foods rich in fiber to slow digestion and better control blood glucose

  • Eat lean protein to control food cravings

  • Choose non-starchy vegetables like artichokes, broccoli, eggplant, and mushrooms

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently