For many of us, the description of coffee as a magic elixir is not far from the mark. We depend on it for getting up in the morning and it helps us enjoy our day as well. It’s especially crucial for people with a boring or unpleasant job, who may lean on it throughout the day to keep themselves motivated.

The problem with coffee (and tea) is that Americans don’t tend to drink it as is. Instead, we typically flavor our beverages with additives, most of which can be harmful to our teeth. Chief among these harmful additives is sugar, which is added both for flavor and for an extra pick-me-up. Unfortunately sugar also serves as a pick-me-up for oral bacteria as well. Now a new study has revealed just how much sugar we’re adding to our coffee on a daily basis.

woman with large tablespoon of sugar prepares to dump it in her coffee

Revealing the Sweet Secret

For this study, researchers at the University of Illinois utilized 12 years of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This is a nationally representative survey of Americans that’s conducted regularly to try to get a picture of our health-related behaviors in the US.

In the survey, 13,185 adults reported that they’d drunk coffee in the 24 hours before the survey. About half as many, 6215, reported drinking tea. Based on this information, researchers estimated that 51% of US adults drink coffee on a daily basis, and 26% drink tea on a daily basis. In total, this means about 160 million people in the US drink coffee and/or tea daily.

With the high antioxidant content and other health benefits related to tea and coffee, this means a high  potential for improved health. But this potential is undermined by the fact that people put so many additives into their coffee, especially sugar.

Researchers found that the average coffee drinker consumed nearly three teaspoons of sugar each day (41.3 Calories worth) in their coffee, while tea drinkers consumed about two teaspoons of sugar (36.7 Calories) in their tea. To compare this to dietary guidelines, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men consume no more than 150 Calories of added sugar a day, while women should consume no more than 100 Calories of added sugar. This means that the average woman coffee drinker is getting 41% of her daily recommended sugar in her coffee alone.

Sugar is of course the leading cause of tooth decay. It also contributes to weight gain and diabetes risk. But sugar isn’t the only additive of note. Americans also add an average of 23 fat Calories to coffee and 3.7 fat Calories to tea.

Skip the Sweets for Better Health

Your daily caffeine habit doesn’t have to contribute to weight gain and poor oral health. There are many simple ways you can reduce your intake of sugar and fat with your coffee.

Make your own: As with any food, preparing your own coffee and tea gives you control over all the additives in it. When you let someone else prepare your beverage, you don’t know how much sugar is in it. This is especially true if you’re ordering flavored coffees and coffee shops. Plus, making your own coffee and tea can save you a ton of money. What’s not to like?

Buy better coffee and tea: If your coffee and tea doesn’t taste good to start with, you’re more likely to add a lot of sugar and cream to make it more drinkable. This may mean eschewing the black sludge in the corporate coffee pot in favor of some tea you brought from home.

Consider substitutes: Sugar substitutes don’t feed oral bacteria the same way that sugar does. In fact, some of them can actually hamper oral bacteria. But, be aware that they may come with health risks of their own.

Make the switch: If you’re a coffee drinker, you may be able to cut your sugar consumption by switching to tea. Tea drinkers tend to add less to their beverage.

Cut yourself off: And, of course, you can always just drink less coffee and tea. If you always add sugar to your beverage, then drinking less of it will reduce your sugar consumption.

Whether you drink coffee, tea, or other sweetened beverages, your teeth may be in need of reconstructive dentistry as a result. If you are looking for a dentist in Wilmington, NC who can help, please call (910) 392-6060 today for an appointment at Kuzma Advanced Dentistry.