Worried about tooth decay? Switching to sugar-free drinks won't save you from the acids that destroy enamel and wear down tissues in your teeth, a new study says. Researchers at the University of Melbourne reached this conclusion by having people drink sugar and sugar-free drinks, and found little difference in resulting tooth decay, UPI reports. "While reducing your sugar intake does reduce your risk of dental decay, the chemical mix of acids in some foods and drinks can cause the equally damaging condition of dental erosion," says study co-author Eric Reynolds, per a press release. In the study's first phase, participants consumed 15 drinks (some with sugar, some without) easily found in Australian schools—and all of them except milk caused tooth decay.
In phase two, participants downed water, Coca-Cola, and eight sports drinks. Water caused no decay and Coca-Cola the worst, while sports drinks like Powerade, Gatorade, and Staminade (whether powdered or liquid) all decayed teeth; only Endura and Sukkie, which have more calcium, didn't wear down human molars. Participants also ate 32 sugar-free baked goods and candy, 20 of which had about as much acidity as sugar-free drinks; fruit-flavored goodies were the worst offenders, lemon-flavored ones in particular. The Washington Post notes that sugar-free gum is OK because it can get saliva flowing and actually help. But when it comes to beverages, researchers advise that you "choose the most basic, old-fashioned way of rehydrating—water," notes the Post. (Meanwhile, it seem the sugar industry has long meddled with cavity research.)