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Fruitarians, Fruit Based Diets and Dental Disintegration

Many raw-food enthusiasts have experienced dental problems from fruitarian or fruit-based diets. I've talked to people on fruit-based diets who had gums recede, teeth loosen and fall out, had teeth crack, had pieces of teeth break off, etc. They generally felt fine, and dental disintegration came as a surprise. One man, who had eaten nothing but raw fruit for six months, told me he had felt like he was flying. Then he started losing teeth. He gave up raw foods.

This is not a new problem. Decades ago, Arnold Ehret promoted a fruit-based diet. Some people who followed him lost teeth. Raw food e-groups have posts by people saying I thought this diet was supposed to help me, how come my teeth are falling out?. Some raw food advocates teach that fruit is the perfect food. They often ignore the tooth loss and other dental problems of their followers. Some claim that the suddenly toothless people were all having dental disorders before going raw, even though it's not true.

Mineral Imbalance

Some raw fooders make up fantastical theories to rationalize why it really wasn't the fruit. The explanation is simple. Bones and teeth, like all other body tissues, are constantly being rebuilt. The materials that the tissues are made of are continually being slowly replaced. Fruit is high in phosphorus, low in calcium and magnesium. In order for the body to maintain bones and teeth, there needs to be a proper ratio of minerals. Too much phosphorus, too little magnesium, the calcium doesn't stay. Of course, most fruit is low in calcium in the first place. Oranges and figs are a bit higher in calcium, but there's still the high phosphorus, low magnesium.

The teeth loosening and/or falling out is probably caused by loss of minerals, leading to loss of bone in the jaw, so that the tooth socket becomes loose. The cracking of teeth is probably caused by loss of minerals in the internal structure of the tooth. (One of the reasons that eating animal products leads to osteoporosis is the high phosphorus content, the low magnesium; however there's also the high content of sulfur-containing amino acids.)

Skin and Hair Problems

Some people on fruit-based diets have reported skin problems, or hair becoming thin and brittle and breaking off. The reasons for this are not clear. Perhaps the skin problems could be due to lack of essential fatty acids. Since hair is mostly protein, it's possible that the hair growth slowdown could simply be a lack of protein. It's generally easy to get enough protein, if you're getting enough calories and are eating a varied diet. Green vegetables are great source of protein.

How Much Fruit is Too Much?

You don't have to be on an all-fruit diet to develop dental disintegration. People have had dental problems on mostly-fruit diets. Some have been able to catch it in time, and prevent tooth loss by decreasing their fruit intake, and eating more green leafy vegetables. Eat raw dark green vegetables. Dark green leafy vegetables are good sources of many minerals. They are high in calcium and magnesium, low in phosphorus. Kale is a great choice. Spinach and chard would not be good choices if you're having dental problems. They have high levels of oxalic acid, which binds calcium. Spinach is a fine food in some other respects, loaded with carotenoids, chlorophyll, and antioxidants. I'll have a spinach page on here soon, there's some interesting research.

Dr. Schnitzer reports that some people with gum problems (not the fruit-diet related kind) only get better if they eat all their vegetables raw. He thinks that some toxin created by cooking vegetables affects the gums. He advocates a mostly-raw or all-raw diet of grains, vegetables, fruits, sprouts and seeds. People who switch from a typical diet to his raw food program experience a decrease in dental problems. Some parents who previously had a child with crooked teeth have another child born with straight teeth after switching to his diet.

Eat Raw Grain

Grain is a great source of magnesium. Traditional cultures that eat diets high in grain have good teeth. Grains have a bit of phosphorus, but not enough to worry about. The traditional populations on grain-based diets have sound teeth and strong bones.

Other Ideas That Can Help

Saltis best avoided. Salt makes you lose calcium and potassium. Potassium helps the body retain calcium, sodium does the opposite. There's a small amount of salt naturally in whole foods; that's all you need.

Sea vegetables are sometimes recommended as a source of minerals. Problem: They're high in sodium, which makes you lose calcium. Dulse is higher in potassium and lower in sodium than other sea vegetables, but it's still much higher in sodium than land vegetables. Whether it actually helps is unclear.

Be sure to get some sun exposure, or take Vitamin D2 (D2, ergocalciferol, is not animal based).

A multi-mineral supplement may help save your teeth. Be sure to avoid the ones containing iron, unless you are a menstruating woman. Excess iron accumulates in the liver, creates free radicals, and is a risk factor for heart disease.

Caffeine causes calcium loss. See caffeine page on my other site, © Jordan Rothstein <jordan at>