Prominent organizations, including the World Health Organization and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), have rejected low-carb diets that prevent tooth decay in favor of recommending high-carb diets that rely on fluoride and food fortification to alleviate dental damage and nutritional deficiencies, a University of Washington researcher said.
In a recent article published in the MDPI’s Nutrients journal, Dr. Philippe Hujoel of the UW School of Dentistry says that not only these organizations but other major health and professional associations reversed their previous positions and began recommending high carbohydrate diets over the decades of the last century. Specifically, he cites the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Dental Association (ADA).
These groups, he says, ignored scientific evidence weakening their claim that the only adverse health effect of a high-carb diet was dental caries. Organizations such as the World Health Organization and the USDA then recommended increased use of fluoride to combat the risk of tooth decay.
Meanwhile, says Dr. Hujoel, some scientists have provided compelling evidence that low-carb diets are at least as beneficial to health as high-carb diets. Low-carb diets help prevent tooth decay and render fluoride — which has no tangible health benefits other than cavity prevention — largely unnecessary, he says.
Dr. Hujoel’s study traces this shift toward high-carbohydrate dietary guidelines supplemented with fluoride back to the mid-twentieth century, when leaders like Emory W. Morris, a dentist and president of the Kellogg Foundation – a branch of a major cereal manufacturer – became the first chairman of the ADA Council on Dental Health in 1942.
Morris suggested that the tooth decay problem be solved with fluoride rather than sticking to the existing recommendation of a low-carb diet. He had a conflict of interest in this decision, as cereals are carbohydrates and increase the risk of tooth decay.
In addition, to make its recommendations, the ADA council had to reconsider its position on several key points, specifies Dr. Hujoel:
- The Safety of Topically Applied Fluoride
- The role of nutrient deficiencies in bone health as a cause of tooth decay has gone from ‘established fact’ to explicit dismissal
- The need to teach dental patients “that a reduction in carbohydrate intake is necessary”, moving to a recommendation of a “well-balanced” diet, which has become increasingly associated with rich nutritional guidelines in carbohydrates
Dr. Hujoel’s study also explores the private interests involved when the ADA took the first important steps to endorse current high-carb, high-fluoride nutritional guidelines, most of which have been maintained for decades.
Diets high in carbohydrates are harmful to dental health because residues of these foods in the mouth break down into sugars, which feed the Streptococcus mutans bacteria that are also present. In turn, the bacteria produce lactic acid, which attacks tooth enamel, leading to cavities. Fluoride strengthens the enamel.
Hujoel, PP, et al. (2022) Private interests and the beginning of high-carbohydrate, fluoride-supplemented nutritional guidelines. Nutrients. doi.org/10.3390/nu14204263.