Sugars and Tooth Decay

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

It has been common knowledge for thousands of years that sweet foods encourage tooth decay. In the Greek book of Problems attributed to Aristotle, the question is asked, “Why do figs, which are soft and sweet, destroy the teeth?” Nearly 2,000 years later, as sugar cane was being established in the West Indies, a German visitor to the English court named Paul Hentzner described Queen Elizabeth I as she appeared in 1598:

Next came the Queen, in the Sixty-fifth Year of her Age, as we were told, very majestic; her Face oblong, fair, but wrinkled; her Eyes small, yet black and pleasant; her Nose a little hooked; her Lips narrow, and her Teeth black; (a defect the English seem subject to, from their too great use of Sugar) . . .