You know how sugary drinks are bad for your teeth? Turns out, sugar-free ones are too.
The Guardian reports on a new review of existing research that finds that common sugar substitutes sorbitol and xylitol still contribute to tooth problems. They may be less cavity-inducing than actual sugar, but they can cause acidity in the mouth that destroys tooth enamel. Or, as Professor Damien Walmsley explains it, "excess use of sugar-free products containing fruit flavourings could rot the enamel covering the dentine in teeth and ultimately cause teeth to dissolve."
The study authors add, "As the use of sorbitol and xylitol containing products increases, the public should be educated on the hidden risk of dental erosion due to acidic additives, as well as the adverse effects of gastric disturbance and osmotic diarrhoea." That last side effect sounds truly horrifying, but it's actually a known consequence of consuming sorbitol, which can't be digested normally. All of this is especially insidious given that sugar-free drinks and gums often market themselves as a healthy option. Stephen Hancocks, editor of the journal where the study appeared, says of this marketing tactic, "The claim might well mean what it says and be suitably backed-up by research evidence, but does it fully say what it means, or alternatively, what is it not saying?" This is totally confusing, but I think what he's saying is, diet soda could be healthy, except for the part where it melts your teeth. Proceed accordingly.