Sugar and no breastfeeding lead to infant caries

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Study suggests sugar consumption and early interruption of breastfeeding are risk factors for dental caries in infancy

Study suggests sugar consumption and early interruption of breastfeeding are risk factors for dental caries in infancy. (Image: Shutterstock / ADragan)
Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Tue. 14 March 2023


The Brazilian study, published in journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, found that inclusion of sugar and early interruption of breastfeeding are the main factors that contribute to the appearance of dental caries in two year olds.

The study tracked children born between 2015-16 in Cruzeiro do Sul, Acre state, Brazil. Dental caries were found in 22.8% of the 800 children examined. Researchers observed that breastfeeding for 24 months reduced consumption of ultra-processed foods or foods with added sugar, acting as a factor of protection against dental caries.

"Some previous studies pointed to an association between extended breastfeeding [for 12 months or more] and the occurrence of dental caries, but without properly accounting for the role of early added sugar consumption by these children. Our research found the increased risk of caries in the context of extended breastfeeding to correlate with sugar consumption," said Marly Augusto Cardoso, principal investigator for the project. Cardoso is a professor at the University of São Paulo's School of Public Health.

This news comes as experts warn British toddlers’ diets are amongst the worst in the world. A study of 66,000 children’s diets in eight countries, including UK, USA, Australia, Brazil and Mexico, found that under-fives in the UK have the highest consumption of mass-produced, ready-made foods, with these products making up nearly two thirds of British children’s average energy intake. Experts have expressed concerns that eating processed foods from such an early age could set habits for life, and fuel the risk of systemic diseases. The new study, published in Obesity Reviews, suggests children need to reduce their intake of these ultra-processed foods.

Parents have previously been warned that food pouches aimed at children under one can contain more sugar by volume than Cola-Cola. A survey of 109 fruit-based pouches, initiated by the British Dental Association (BDA), found the pouches marketed to babies as young as four months old contain sugar levels the equivalent of up to 150% of the fizzy drink. The report also highlighted the increased risk of tooth erosion and decay to infants as they often suck the food directly from the pouches.

BDA chairman Eddie Crouch concluded: “Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children, and sugar is driving this epidemic.”

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