Don’t be a cynic, share the love!

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  Posted by: The Probe      14th February 2020

Last February, UK retailers predicted that Valentine’s Day spending that year would be higher than ever before – nearly £1 billion, according to one survey.[i] If you weren’t one of the nearly 40 per cent of Brits who took part, no doubt you’ll say this is another example of commercialism at its worst. The origins of Valentine’s Day lie in a Christian feast; it wasn’t associated with romantic love until the 14th century. Now cynics will argue it is completely out of control.

If you’re a cynic and a dental practitioner, you will also be wincing at the thought of all that money spent on chocolate, sweet treats and sugar-loaded prosecco. The British Heart Foundation now runs a DECHOX fundraising campaign, challenging participants to give up chocolate for the whole of March which – coincidentally – is the month between Valentine’s Day and that other choc-fest, Easter.

But why don’t we try to be positive? With so much looking bleak in the world, what’s so bad about spreading the love? Being nice to one another and showing someone you care is something we should be encouraging. Also, are the traditional edible Valentine’s Day gifts always so bad? The health benefits of chocolate are an historical concept; evidence can be found for its medicinal use in Mesoamerican civilizations, prepared as a beverage as early as 600 BC.[ii] The first by-products of the Theobroma cacao plant won’t bare much resemblance to how we eat chocolate today, though.

But the internet still tells us that dark chocolate in particular is good for us. Is this claim an overstatement? Online you’ll find articles claiming that the polyphenols in dark chocolate are ‘proven’ to ‘exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities’ and can do anything from reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, to improve brain function.[iii] But you’ll also find articles claiming that the research often doesn’t recognise that commercially-produced chocolate won’t contain the high levels of polyphenols used in these studies.[iv] The jury is out, then.

What isn’t in dispute is that chocolate, whether it’s dark, milk or white is also full of fat and sugar. Too much of either isn’t good for your health; as ever, moderation is key. Because – and this is where the pendulum swings back again – chocolate gives many of us genuine pleasure. If you are someone (or you know someone) who gets a glow of happiness from a few squares of chocolate, why stop?

Red wine also gets the dark chocolate treatment – ‘it’s good for you!’ ‘it’s bad for you!’ or ‘it isn’t good for you, but it’s not as bad as white!’ Interestingly, like dark chocolate, these claims mostly originate from red wine’s supposed antioxidant properties, due to the presence of polyphenols, in particular resveratrol. According to some studies, resveratrol can prevent cardiovascular diseases.[v] But, as with chocolate, other factors will come into play, such as the amount consumed and an individual’s lifestyle and diet habits. Red wine (more so than white) is also an element of the ‘Mediterranean diet’ – supposedly the healthiest in the world because Mediterranean countries record the lowest number of diet-related deaths.[vi] Well, yes, but it is only an element – Mediterranean diets are also full of antioxidant-rich fresh fruit and vegetables and healthy fats, with dairy and red meat consumed in moderation.

People in the Mediterranean tend to eat together too, spending time over meals for optimum enjoyment. This circles us back to the importance of being good to ourselves. Valentine’s Day may be a commercial enterprise, but why not accentuate the positive? This means telling our patients why they should embrace spreading the love!

Taking good care of ourselves – both our physical and mental health – is something we should all be doing, and we should be helping our patients to do this every day. A well-balanced diet which includes a little bit of whatever it is that makes them feel good – whether it’s a square or two of chocolate, or a glass of something delicious – will boost wellbeing and motivate them to doing things better. When they feel they’re taking care of body and mind, they’ll be more inclined to adopt more good habits (like exercise) and ditch bad ones (like smoking). Oral hygiene is included here. If patients can improve on their daily routine, they will soon experience the benefits and a sense of wellbeing. An improved routine means elevated cleaning – including interdental cleaning, your patients could try the TANDEX range, in particular the FLEXI™ brush. Regular dental appointments are also part of ongoing self-care.

It may be hidden in commercialism, but the fundamental message of Valentine’s Day is relevant all year round. If your patients are taught the importance of being good to themselves, doing things that improve their mental wellbeing, better physical health will usually follow. Everything in moderation for a happy, healthy life is something worth celebrating.

 

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Author: Kimberley Lloyd- Rees graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2010, where she now works as a clinical tutor in Dental Hygiene and Therapy as well as working in practice. She has spent her career working across a variety of specialist private and mixed dental practices, for the MOD and volunteering her time to a dental charity in Nepal.

 

[i] Valentine’s Day retail sales set to hit £853m. Talking Retail, 12 February 2019. Link: https://www.talkingretail.com/news/industry-news/valentines-day-retail-sales-set-hit-853m-12-02-2019/ (accessed October 2019).

[ii] Lippi D. Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-food. Nutrients 2013, 5 (5), 1573-1584. Link: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/5/1573 (accessed October 2019).

[iii] Magrone T, Russo MA, Jirillo E. Cocoa and dark chocolate polyphenols: from biology to clinical applications. Frontiers in Immunology. 2017 Jun 9; 8: 677.

[iv] The dark truth about chocolate. The Guardian, 25 March 2018. Link: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/25/chocolate-the-dark-truth-is-it-good-for-you-health-wellbeing-blood-pressure-flavanols (accessed October 2019).

[v] Snopek L, Mlcek J, Sochorova L, Baron M, Hlavacova I, Jurikova T, Kizek R, Sedlackova E, Sochor J. Contribution of red wine consumption to human health protection. Molecules. 2018 Jul; 23 (7): 1684.

[vi] The diets cutting one in five lives short every year. BBC, 4 April 2019. Link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47734296 (accessed October 2019).


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