Halloween is upon us. And Halloween is synonymous with indulging in too many sweets. It’s not just children who will indulge. According to the National Confectioners Association, 72 percent of parents confess they steal candy from their child’s Halloween haul.
And although, like anything, an occasional candy treat is okay, overdoing it is not. A single Halloween chocolate bar can have up to 25 grams of sugar or more! The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams a day for most women and no more than 36 grams a day for most men.
Here are five reasons why you need to go easy on those sugary treats.
1. Excess sugar packs on the pounds
Is it any wonder that two out of every three adults in this country are overweight or obese when we look at how much sugar we’re taking in? Foods full of sugar are full of empty calories. Translation: A whole lot of calories that don’t satisfy hunger and don’t contain any nutritional value like proteins, essential fats, vitamins, or minerals. And that can make us fat. One large study done in New Zealand that looked at almost 70 different studies on sugar and weight found that less sugar intake was associated with a decrease in body weight, while more sugar intake was associated with an increase in body weight.1
2. Excess sugar decreases insulin sensitivity
When you down a candy bar, blood glucose levels rise. That causes the pancreas to release insulin into the blood to help absorb the glucose and stimulate the liver and muscle tissue to store the excess. When you down those candy bars day after day, insulin levels remain high and your body becomes less sensitive to it. And this may lead to an increased risk of diabetes. A Stanford study looked at information from 175 countries and found that for every extra 150 calories from sugar per day (about three-quarters of a chocolate bar), diabetes prevalence rose by about 1 percent.2
3. Excess sugar increases blood pressure, regardless of body weight
We tend to think of salt when we think of high blood pressure. But we may be looking at the wrong white crystals. Eating excess sugar may actually be a major contributor to the disease. In fact, evidence suggests that added sugars, not added salt, may be more strongly and directly linked to high blood pressure.3
As we’ve already said, added sugars cause insulin to pour into the blood stream. That can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure and, over time, can reduce the sensitivity of the receptors used to regulate blood pressure. Additionally, the constant flow of insulin can cause the smooth muscle cells around the vessels to grow faster than normal, which can cause artery walls to constrict and, in turn, lead to high blood pressure.
4. Excess sugar triggers you to eat more of it
Ever notice how after you eat a piece of Halloween candy you want another? And another? That’s because sugar actually alters your brain chemistry that makes you want more and more. Sugar initiates the release of brain chemicals — mainly dopamine — that make you feel good, similar to the way drugs or gambling do. But the more sugar you eat, the more sugar you need to begin that process. So, in order to experience that same euphoric feeling, you have to eat more sugar, even more than you did before.
5. Excess sugar increases your risk of dying from heart disease
For years we’ve been told that too much fat ups your risk of heart disease. But a major study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that those with the highest intake of sugar had double the risk of death from heart disease compared to those who had the lowest intake.4
Spooky stuff! The good news is an occasional sugary treat won’t derail an otherwise healthy diet. So on Halloween, choose your favorite candy and enjoy it. But in moderation.
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1. Te Morenga L, Mallard S, Mann J. Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies. BMJ. 2012;346:e7492. Review. PMID: 23321486.
2. Basu S, Yoffe P, Hills N, Lustig RH. The relationship of sugar to population-level diabetes prevalence: an econometric analysis of repeated cross-sectional data. PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57873. PMID: 23460912.
3. DiNicolantonio JJ, Lucan SC. The wrong white crystals: not salt but sugar as aetiological in hypertension and cardiometabolic disease. Open Heart. 2014;1(1):e000167. Review. PMID: 25717381.
4. Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516-24. PMID: 24493081.