With debate raging about the virtues (or otherwise) of eating a low-fat diet, it was interesting to come across this story from the Philosophical Transactions. It has long been known that eating sugar is bad for your teeth – but in 1728 one doctor, at least, thought the exact opposite. Dr Frederick Slare wrote this:
I have had reason to give a great character of sugar, on account of some extraordinary effects it seemed to have on my grandfather 40 years since: he made it his daily practice to take as much sugar as his butter spread upon bread would receive, for his constant breakfast, unless he happened to exchange it for honey sometimes.
Sugar being an costly luxury in the seventeenth century, this sounds an expensive breakfast. And a slightly odd one.
He frequently sweetened his ale and beer with sugar: he had sugar put to all the sauces he used with his meat.
Beer is already laden with natural sugars; adding even more to it sounds rather perverse.
He had all his teeth in his mouth at 80 years, strong and firm; never had any pain or soreness in his gums or teeth; never refused the hardest crust.
Here’s where things start to take an unusual turn.
In his 82nd year one of his teeth dropped out, and after that a second, which he put into my hand, and was one of the fore-teeth: he bid me feel the cavity, where I struck my nail upon a bone. In short, all his teeth came out in two or three years, and the young ones filled up their room: he had a new set quite round: his hair, from a very candy’d white, became much darker.
A new set of gnashers and a new head of hair! Was Dr Slare sure his granddad wasn’t dyeing it?
He continued in good health and strength, without any disease, and died in his 99th or 100th year of a plethora, as I guess, for want of bleeding. This reconciled me much to vindicate sugar, and to shew that Dr Willis has unjustly charged it with a corrosive liquor as bad as aqua fortis: I examined it, and found the charge unjust; that sugar contained no worse substance in it than milk, and honey, and manna, nay, even bread itself.
Sorry to break it to you, Dr Slare, but Dr Willis was right.