Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Oral Health at the Grocery Store

Time Magazine’s Healthland blog, reporting on a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, explained that paying for food at the grocery store with cash instead of with a credit/debit card leads to more careful spending and healthier food choices.

In Massachusetts, doctors at three health centers are writing prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables. They are giving coupons equal to around $1 a day for each member of a patient’s family to buy and eat fresh produce from local farmers’ markets.

What does this have to do with oral health? The mouth is the gateway to the body and the starting point for good health – oral and otherwise. What we buy and eat matters in maintaining healthy mouths and nourishing healthy bodies—for our young and not so young.

Researchers in the Journal of Consumer Research study followed the grocery shopping habits of 1,000 households over six months. People who used debit or credit cards (1) tended to make more impulsive food choices and (2) the impulsive purchases were more often than not unhealthy items like cookies, cakes, and chips and candy. [Beware: acidic and sugary drinks, cookies and chips are the exactly the kind of food items that encourage the growth of cavity-forming bacteria in the mouth.]

Physicians in Massachusetts community health centers are trying to reverse the fast food dynamic, particularly in lower income inner city patients. They are using produce by prescription to steer families away from low cost/low nutrition and often impulse items to healthier, yet slightly costlier fresh fruits and vegetables. The physicians are watching these patients to see whether the food adjustment affects eating patterns and other health indicators like weight, body mass index, and of course, fewer cavities and healthier mouths.

Shop thoughtfully. Minimize sugars and starches, fats and empty calories. Remember that what you buy and eat matters in maintaining your healthy mouth and your healthy body. Healthy food choices are the starting point in reversing the national trend to obesity in children and adults and laying the groundwork for healthier generations of Americans.

Read more:

Healthland blog

Health Affairs: