Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Grocery Store Lessons: Excel Naturally Sweetened Gum

Last week my friend Mark tweeted this:


I think our fear of “unnatural” or “artificial” ingredients has gone too far. I’m generally one to go for real sugar any day over artificial sweeteners. I prefer the flavour and I’m of the opinion that a little of the “real” thing is better than a lot of the fake. In some case though it just doesn’t make sense to be choosing real sugar.

There is no benefit to choosing sugar-sweetened gum over gum sweetened with sugar alcohols. We know that sugar consumption, especially when in products that spend a long time in the mouth (such as gum) promotes the development of cavities. While xylitol (the sugar alcohol generally found in sugar-free gums) may not be the great cavity preventer it was originally touted as, it certainly doesn’t promote the development of cavities like sugary gum does.

It’s beyond me why anyone would think that a “natural” (and come on, how natural is commercial chewing gum anyway?) gum containing sugar is a superior choice over artificially sweetened gum. Shame on Excel for taking advantage of the fear of the “unnatural” by reverting to a product that is likely to incense dentists, dietitians, and doctors alike. File this product under another great example of a natural fallacy.


Follow Friday: Oil pulling


I had never even heard of oil pulling until a few weeks ago when a customer at work told me about it. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed like everyone was talking about it. I definitely don’t think that it’s the cure-all that many people are touting it as. However, it does seem like it can have some benefits; such as, tooth cleaning and breath-freshening. It’s probably better than using mouthwash but it’s no substitute for regular flossing and brushing (in my non-dental completely personal opinion).

Check out a couple of recent articles about the subject: The “oil pulling” health craze works, just not in the way you think on Jezebel and Oil pulling your leg on Science-Based Medicine.

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Eating your way to strong teeth

While I am a firm believer that aspects of our health are interrelated and that nutrition affects both our physical and mental health, I am also a firm believer that many people misrepresent these effects. I was intrigued by a recent article I came across discussing the relationship between nutrition and dental health. Unfortunately, this article didn’t provide the solid advice regarding the benefits of consuming foods containing vitamin D and calcium, avoiding consumption of sweet starchy foods in combination (e.g. raisins and soda crackers), rinsing the mouth with water after eating, and avoiding brushing immediately after consuming acidic foods. Nope, this “Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist” – now there’s a mouthful! – cited shoddy research by Dr. Weston A. Price.

Dr. Weston A. Price, can naturally be found on Quack Watch where I found exactly what I suspected I might, and more. Dr. Price and the author believed that “primitive” societies had better oral health, and fewer cavities, because of their diets. This is the same sort of argument posited by many subscribers to fad diets and it drives me insane. Oh sure, they may have not experienced certain diseases or tooth decay but they also only lived to less than half our average life span. If you too want to avoid many modern-day illnesses be sure to die before you reach the ripe old age of 40. Also, there are many more differences between our modern lifestyle and the lifestyles of our ancestors and of those living in more primitive societies. We can’t just say, “Oh, they didn’t eat refined sugar so that’s why they didn’t have as many cavities or cancers”. Not that I’m advocating for the consumption of refined sugar, I just don’t like the unscientific argument used to advocate for various diets.  Nor do I like the implication that regular brushing and flossing are not essential to good oral health.


Dr. Oz, the fantasy continues

Will Dr. Oz ever cease to be an excellent source of inaccurate nutrition information? I really should thank him for being a source of inspiration for my ranting. However, I would much rather that he stopped playing dietitian and stuck to being a surgeon. “What’s he done this time?” you may be wondering. Along with his buddy Dr. Roizen, he’s published an article with Six Steps to a More Youthful You. It’s not all bad, but some of it is.

1. Visit your dental professional every six months to reduce risk of heart disease and diabetes. Umm… I’m pretty sure that association between heart disease and gum disease was thrown out the window months ago. Was there ever an alleged causal link between gum disease and diabetes? As far as I’m aware, diabetes can increase your risk for gum disease, not the reverse, although gum disease may worsen blood glucose control in those with diabetes. Yes, you should all be seeing your dentist regularly but not for the reasons given by these docs.

2. Take 2 baby aspirin daily. As a dietitian, I probably shouldn’t be commenting on this one. I’m just going to point out that after making this broad suggestion the doctors advise you to check with your doctor before starting this regime. Good idea, talk to your doctor. Don’t just start popping aspirins.

3. Go for three servings of salmon or trout a week. Twice a week is probably sufficient. I’d also like to extend the invitation to all “fatty fish”” anchovies, sardines, and mackerel. Also, Atlantic salmon is a far better source of omega-3 fatty acids than Pacific salmon.

4. Exercise is great. Every little bit helps but the higher the intensity, the greater the benefit. You also don’t need to leave rest days in between resistance training sessions, as long as you’re not working out the same muscle group two days in a row. For more about the health benefits and myths regarding exercise, read Tim Caulfield’s The Cure for Everything.

5. Nuts are good. I don’t really have any issue with this advice. Although I’m inclined to think this “real age” business is bullsh*t.

6. Yes, coffee may be good for you. Yes, I myself wrote about this last week. Please keep in mind that you’re not doing yourself any favours if you’re loading your coffee with cream and sugar.