Study: Overall and Oral Health Can Be Improved by Swapping Sugary Drinks with Water

Replacing even just one serving of sugar-sweetened drinks with water can have dramatic effects on the health, including oral health, of children and adults, scientists posited in a study published by Virginia Tech University researchers in the journal Nutrients.

Kiyah J. Duffey, Ph.D., an adjunct faculty member of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech, led the research. She and colleagues investigated nationally representative data from nearly 20,000 U.S. adults from the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10 percent of daily calories come from added sugar and that calorie-free drinks, particularly water, should be favored.

"We found that among U.S. adults who consume one serving of sugar-sweetened beverages per day, replacing that drink with water lowered the percent of calories coming from drinks from 17 to 11 percent," Dr. Duffey told Science Daily. "Even those who consumed more sugary drinks per day could still benefit from water replacement, dropping the amount of calories coming from beverages to less than 25 percent of their daily caloric intake."

With the latest update to the Nutrition Facts Label, the FDA is recommending that less than 10 percent of caloric intake be from added sugar.

The research also found that people who drink water over low-calorie alternatives tend to eat more fruits and vegetables, have lowered blood sugar and are better hydrated.

The findings echo a scientific statement issued by the American Heart Association in August that said “added sugars contribute to a diet that is energy dense but nutrient poor and increase the risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity-related cancers, and dental caries [cavities].”

More information between the relationship between sugars and cavities can be found at

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tips for a Healthy Diet

  • Foods high in sugar are a particularly common cause of tooth decay. Making these foods a treat rather than a staple will help protect your teeth.

  • To maintain a balanced diet, eat a variety of foods from each of the five major food groups.

  • When choosing a snack, go for nutritious foods such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt or a piece of fruit.