Dentists going nuts over National Nutrition Week

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Dr Derek Lewis of the ADA's Oral Health Committee
Dr Derek Lewis of the ADA’s Oral Health Committee

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is reissuing warnings about Sugar Bandits in Australia as part of its support for National Nutrition Week (NNW), which starts next 12-18 October. NNW is run every year by Nutrition Australia, who aims to raise awareness of the role of food on our health, and support the community to enjoy healthy eating.

This year, Nutrition Australia is encouraging all Australians to take the NNW challenge by preparing healthy meals every day for seven days.

Dr Derek Lewis, from the ADA’s Oral Health Committee, suggests we’re losing the battle when health surveys say less than one in ten Australians eat enough vegetables and only half eat enough fruit.

Disturbingly, one third of Australians’ daily energy comes from discretionary foods like biscuits, cakes, confectionary, fried foods, chips, alcohol and sugary drinks. Many of these foods are also contributing to the growing incidence of decay in children’s teeth.

Dr Lewis said: “Healthy eating is critical to dental health and overall general health. We are not only seeing increasing levels of overweight and obesity in Australians but increasing levels of tooth decay as well.

“Tooth decay is a chronic disease that is entirely preventable. The number one cause of tooth decay is the consumption of sugary foods and drinks on a regular basis. NNW gives us a chance to raise awareness about healthy eating.”

The ADA recently held its Dental Health Week (www.dentalhealthweek.com.au) where families were asked: “Who is spoiling your children rotten? Dob in your family’s Sugar Bandit”. The ‘Sugar Bandit’ theme aimed to inform everyone about the risks of sugary food, and in particular how certain eating habits place oral health at risk.

Providing sugary food as treats to reward, bribe, or comfort children sends an inappropriate message about food from an early age and undermines other efforts to build healthy eating habits.

Sometimes the Sugar Bandit may not even know they are harming children’s teeth. Many snacks that are marketed as ‘healthy’ are actually high in sugar and get stuck in children’s teeth, increasing acid attacks which cause decay.

Some of the major ‘healthy’ snack culprits are: dried fruit, biscuits (sweet and savoury), fruit juice, muesli bars, crackers, children’s cereals, flavoured milk, sweetened yoghurt, fruit bars, fruit slice, flavoured popcorn, canned fruit, baked goods and banana bread.

Dr Lewis concluded by saying: “We encourage all Australians to take on the National Nutrition Week challenge. Healthy mouths and healthy lives require healthy eating. Healthy eating requires eating from the five food groups (fruit, vegetables, grain, lean meat and poultry and dairy). People should only have sugary foods and drinks in moderation.”

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