With Love and Gratitude

A blessing a day keeps the doc away

Calling Halloween Switch Witch as the Sugar Show Begins

Can a sweet-tooth be tamed as we consume 31 five-pound bags of sugar per year?

Wiki Commons/ Man vyi
To be certain that no one was left sugarless on Halloween bags of candy lined the shelves of markets for the past month. These are now about to trigger sugar-high children and even many adults who slip into their children’s sweet stash. The debates about big bad sugar continue to rage on. Between the “for” and “against” advocates there may never be a true meeting of the minds. And now the anti-sugar lobby has gleaned more evidence against “The Sweets Monster” from the 2013 Connecticut College addictive Oreo cookie study. 

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There is enough evidence against sugar to ban it from every household in the nation. The United States Department of Agriculture says that on a per capita basis, we consume 31 five-pound bags per year. 

Based on facts and observation, sweets create cravings for more sweets, even in adults. No matter how many times a woman might say, “A minute on the lips, forever on the hips,” few can resist dessert temptation. Even Weight Watchers has come to this realization and packages its own brand of yummies. 

On Halloween, what are parents to do about sugar-high children?  While we are so concerned about obesity in children — which indeed has some correlation to sugar intake — parents might also consider ways to mitigate the side effects of sugar on teeth. Chewy candy that sticks to the teeth is far more harmful that chocolate which more easily washes away.

Halloween sugar tips:

As for the immediate Halloween problem, here are some thoughts from mothers.

Candy taxes:  One young mother told me that when she was growing up, after trick-or-treating her mother would have them empty their sacks. She would sort through it and say, “First you pay your taxes.” They grew up thinking that taxes were Snickers bars that went to the head of household.

Toys for candy:  Parents might buy small gifts that their children may have been coveting. Then on Halloween night, the children pay for the toys with pieces of candy. The new Matchbox car might be three pieces of chocolate. Barbie dolls, six pieces. 

The Switch Witch:  My young niece in California says that another trick is to suggest your child leave all the candy for the “Switch Witch” who will replace it with a toy by morning. I think this witch is related to the Tooth Fairy. 

Hide and seek: This is a twist on the Easter egg hunt. Trick-or-treaters can be asked to help wrap candy in Halloween bags. Then adult and children can decide how many bags get hidden for a treasure hunt that might be stretched out for several weekends.

Parents, studies, and disclosure

As for parents addicted to chocolate, follow your heart. The dark chocolate study in the British Medical Journal last year said that one piece a day — about 3.5 ounces for 10 years — might keep the doctor at bay by decreasing the risk of cardiac events.

What about these studies? Based on statistical standards, many sugar studies do meet the tests for validity and reliability, which brings me to the Oreo cookie study. It was done by students at ConnecticutCollege. It seems that this innocent looking confection can be as addictive as cocaine — to rats — who preferred the Oreos to drugs.

In the spirit of full disclosure—from one fully schooled in epidemiology—if I bring a pint of Cherry Garcia into the house, I feel compelled to eat it immediately and completely.  And I won’t even try to resist Italian cannolis. Then there is the hot flourless chocolate cake and Bailey’s chocolate mousse at our local pub.

However, on Halloween, I am perfectly happy with peanut butter cups, chocolate crunchies, and almond joy. As for those addictive Oreo cookies, unlike the munching lab rats, I do not eat the filling first.

The morale to the Halloween sugar story is moderation despite frustration.

Copyright 2013 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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