‘Sugar Papers’ Reveal Industry Role in Skirting Sugar Reduction to Prevent Tooth Decay

sugar pile photo
Photo by Loozrboy
By 1950, even the sugar industry had acknowledged the fact that added sugars in foods and drinks contribute to tooth decay. However, a recently discovered cache of documents reveals that the industry actually worked closely with the government to develop a federal research program focused on other approaches to prevent tooth decay aside from sugar reduction.

If you’re suffering from dental problems that are affecting the appearance and health of your smile, please call Austin dentist Dr. Dan Matthews at 512-452-2273 to discuss your treatment options. Dr. Matthews has extensive experience helping patients restore beautiful, healthy smiles through advanced cosmetic dentistry and restorative dentistry services.

‘Sugar Papers’ Not So Sweet

The so-called “Sugar Papers” are a collection of more than 300 industry documents that were found in a public collection at the University of Illinois and analyzed by researchers at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF).

The documents reveal, in part, that a sugar industry trade organization representing 30 international members worked closely with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the 1960s and ’70s to develop a research program aimed at identifying alternative ways to limit tooth decay in American children without reducing sugar in products.

In 1969, the NIH declared that while reducing the consumption of sucrose was theoretically possible, it was not a practical health measure. Alternatives proposed by the sugar industry and detailed in the Sugar Papers included the use of enzymes added to some foods to break up dental plaque and even a vaccine against tooth decay.

The Tooth Decay Epidemic

Though largely preventable, tooth decay remains the leading chronic disease among U.S. children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC estimates that more than half of American children and teens have cavities in their permanent teeth. More than 15 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 18 are thought to have untreated tooth decay, which can lead to tooth loss, periodontal disease and dental abscesses.

“The dental community has always known that preventing tooth decay required restricting sugar intake,” wrote Cristin Kearns, a UCSF post-doctoral scholar who discovered the archives. “It was disappointing to learn that the policies we are debating today could have been addressed more than 40 years ago.”

Austin, Texas, dentist Dr. Dan Matthews understands that a healthy smile is a beautiful smile. If you’re seeking a knowledgeable, compassionate cosmetic dentist in the greater Austin area, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call our office at 512-452-2273 to arrange your personal consultation.

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