An apple a day, so the saying goes, keeps the doctor away. But the dentist might disagree - after it was revealed that apples can be as bad for your teeth as sweets and fizzy drinks.
An apple a day, so the saying goes, keeps the doctor away.
But the dentist might disagree – after it was revealed that apples can be as bad for your teeth as sweets and fizzy drinks.
Dental experts are warning that the fruit should no longer be treated as snacks between meals because of its high level of sugar and acidity which erode teeth.
The British Dental Association is advising that the safest approach is to eat apples only at mealtimes –and then rinse out the mouth with water to minimise tooth damage.
The fruit’s sugar content has risen by up to 50 per cent over the last decade, with new breeds of apple arriving on the shelves of British supermarkets which have been cross-bred to give a sweeter taste.
Now sweeter varieties such as Pink Lady, Braeburn and Fuji are increasingly popular among British consumers.
Figures from the Government’s Food Standards Agency show that ten years ago apples such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Cox’s Orange Pippin contained 10-11 per cent sugar by weight.
New research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the typical modern apple now has a sugar content of up to 15 per cent, which means it contains the equivalent of four teaspoons of sugar.
While it is widely recognised that sugar can cause decay, the threat posed by acids, which strip away tooth enamel, is less well-known.
A BDA spokesman said: ‘Apples have a high acidity content and one of the things we are concerned about is erosion. Tooth decay is on the decline because of the introduction of fluoride in water and improved oral health. But erosion is becoming a real problem and something we are trying to raise awareness of. ‘Once the enamel is worn away it doesn’t regenerate.
‘Research shows that dental erosion in adults due to diet is usually a result of excessive consumption of fruits and fruit juices.’
Parents should only give fruit juice to their children if it was heavily diluted, said the spokesman.
The BDA suggests that those seeking a snack between meals should eat cheese, despite its high fat content, because it neutralises the acidity that can attack tooth enamel.
Tom Sanders, a professor in nutrition and dietetics at King’s College, London, studied tooth decay in youngsters and found that those from vegan or ‘fruitarian’ families, who eat only fruit, often had the worst teeth.
Professor Sanders said: ‘You expect such children to have a low sugar diet but in fact they were getting so much sugar from fruit and juices that it was unhealthy.
‘The research shows that snacking on fruit between meals is now bad advice.’
The news is likely to come as a shock to all those raised on the idea that eating an apple a day was as good as brushing your teeth.
Experts say that brushing your teeth immediately after eating an apple does more harm than good, because enamel softened by the acid attack is scrubbed away by the toothbrush. They recommend that at least half an hour is left before brushing.
Even the traditional advice that apples were good for you because they contained high levels of vitamin C is now questionable.
Research shows that the vitamin C content slowly declines over time, and many apples are stored for weeks or even months before consumption.
This is the latest blow for fruit fans – in November last year, researchers found fruit teas can damage tooth enamel. Brands containing fruits such as lemon, raspberry and blackcurrant can dissolve enamel.
Researchers at the University Dental Hospital of Manchester placed extracted teeth in three different liquids, a blackcurrant, ginseng and vanilla herbal tea, traditional tea and water.
After 14 days – the equivalent of drinking three cups a day for 18 years – the herbal tea had dissolved a layer of enamel from the tooth several thousandths of a millimetre thick, researchers reported.