The Body on Candy

Your heart, joints and even mood take a hit.

Each year, my kids come back from trick-or-treating with pillowcases filled with chocolate bars, taffy, sugar-filled sticks and more. After they’re done swapping their treats and picking their favorites from the pile, I’m stuck with buckets of goodies just begging to be eaten. But before I indulge my kids’ reject pile, I think about how candy affects different parts of the body. It helps me reject the treats, too. Here’s what to know before digging in:

Your Teeth

According to the American Dental Association, hard candy, sticky foods and sour candy top the list of worst candies for your teeth. In addition to being high in added sugar, hard candy can lead to dental emergencies like broken or chipped teeth. Who needs to be dragging a kid to the dentist to get that baby fixed? Sticky candy like taffy is tougher to remove and may stay longer on teeth. This gives cavity-causing bacteria more time to wreak havoc on your mouth. And, when it comes to sour candy – especially those that are sticky and coated in sugar – they can be very acidic, making your teeth more vulnerable to cavities.

Although a small handful of candy won’t bust your gut, eating an extra few hundred calories a day can lead to weight gain. If you’re a chocoholic like me, those bad boys are filled with saturated fat and carry a hefty calorie tag. It’s probably more likely you’re eating 1,000 or more extra calories per day if you’re bingeing on them.

Your Heart

Studies have strongly connected a diet high in saturated fat with an increased risk of heart disease. Eating one full-sized Hershey bar (a real score, according to my kids) will give you 220 calories and 42 percent of the recommended daily amount of saturated fat. Eat a bar every day (or binge on a handful of minis) and you’ve probably gone over the recommended amount of saturated fat for the day. Over time, this can increase your risk of heart disease.

Your Mood

A 2016 study in Scientific Reports linked intake of sweet food, beverages and added sugar with symptoms of depression. The study, which looked at the dietary patterns of over 23,000 men and women, showed that men who had the highest intake of sugar from sweet food and beverages had a 23 percent higher change of having the common mental disorder after five years. Men and women who consumed the highest amount of sweet foods and sugar were also more likely to have recurring depression.

Another study published in 2015 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the link between foods with higher glycemic indexes and glycemic loads and the incidence of depression using data from about 88,000 postmenopausal women. The study found that women with a diet higher in high glycemic index foods and added sugar were more likely to have depression.

Your Joints

According to the Arthritis Foundation, added sugar from chocolate bars and candy can trigger the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory messengers. Further, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition including data from nearly 200,000 women found that those who consumed one or more servings of sugar-sweetened soda per day had a 63 percent higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis than those who consumed no sugar-sweetened soda or those who consumed less than one serving per month.

Your Pancreas

Every time you eat any food with sugar, your pancreas releases insulin. Overindulging in sugar for a long period of time can result in your pancreas releasing even more insulin. Eventually, your poor, overworked pancreas doesn’t work efficiently, which can lead to high levels of blood sugar and possibly even Type 2 diabetes.

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