Sugar-free Toddler: Saving teeth

In New Zealand we have a ‘celebrity’ psychologist called Nigel Latta.  He’s predominately worked with troubled children and their families, and is pretty much my parenting guru.  I love his laidback approach to parenting, as he reckons parents today are so bombarded with parenting information that we tend to overthink things.  I’m in Camp Nigel.  I think the parenting industry is big business and mostly only serves to make us anxious that we are screwing up the lives of our dear little ones. 

teethimage credit

Anyhow, Nigel has fronted a range of tv shows on differing subjects (not all parenting related) and his latest one is brilliant.  Not so imaginatively called‘Nigel Latta’, the show is a six part documentary on what he sees as the major issues facing New Zealand at the moment.  It’s been a confronting and depressingly grim show and yet contains enough hope that successful ways to tackle these issues are possible.  He looked at inequality in New Zealand, domestic violence, alcohol, our education system, our prison system, and SUGAR.

The episode was called ‘Is Sugar the New Fat?’  I’ve been on this sugar free journey for a couple of years now and am well aware of the evils of the white stuff, but let me tell you, this show terrified me.  D and I were very disturbed by it and it has certainly strengthened our resolve to be a sugar-free family.  Now for us sugar-freers, there wasn’t a great deal of new information in the show, but the guy knows how to put a show together.  Nigel talked to sugar slaying Dr Robert Lustig who talked about the addictive nature of sugar, and its insidious addition to processed food.  Nigel looked at how much sugar is in staple NZ foods, and talked to the people who put it in there.  He also featured blogger nz sugar free  who went sugar free when his wife was diagnosed as being pre diabetic.  Both husband and wife lost loads of weight and the wife is no longer in any danger of becoming diabetic.  

Nigel even went sugar free himself for the show.  He thought he had a healthy diet (low fat milk, muesli and fruit for breakfast) and exercises regularly, but his bloodwork told a very different story.  After two months of being sugar free (and removing other refined carbohydrates) his bloodwork was well within the normal range and he’d lost some weight.

One of the most disturbing parts of the programme was Nigel talking with dental surgeons who regularly perform teeth extractions on toddlers whose teeth have rotted due to excess sugar consumption.  They even showed some extractions.  It was horrendous.  Two and three year olds needing multiple teeth extracted because their parents thought it was ‘okay to put coke in their bottle’.  The dentists said these surgeries (which cost megabucks) are on the increase.

Toddlers needing teeth extractions is not okay.

Having spoken with friends, I know that most people who watched the show were horrified at how much sugar was contained in their food (Marmite and some canned tuna, for instance).  I hope this dialogue gets some traction as I believe we need to angry at the food industry for what it’s doing to us.  At what it’s doing to our kids.  As Nigel points out in the show, the World Health Organisation recommends that children consume no more than 4 teaspoons of sugar a day.  Most NZ children would probably surpass that by breakfast time, given the sugar-laden cereals that are peddled at children.

The show has prompted me to get tough with my toddler to protect her pearly whites (we’ve been a bit complacent in the wake of Cyclone Baby).  In my next post I’ll tell you what that looks like in practice and pass on my tips for sugar-free toddlerness.


This post first appeared in my other blog Giving Up Sugar