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Every year at Halloween time we read what the advocates both “for” and “against” sugar have to say. Although Connecticut College presented evidence of the addictive Oreo Cookie study in 2013, in looking at some earlier research from Yale Scientific, I was surprised to find that there is scientific evidence that disputes the sugar "hyperactivity" high.

Based on studies and observation, sweets create cravings for more sweets, even in adults. No matter how many times we might say, “A minute on the lips, forever on the hips,” few can resist dessert temptation. Yes, the diet industry has come up with many brands of yummies.

Based on statistical standards, many sugar studies do meet the tests for validity and reliability. But keep in mind that results depend upon the reseach question. This brings me to the Oreo cookie study. It was done by students at Connecticut College with Professor of Neuroscience Joseph Schroeder. It seems that this innocent looking confection can be as addictive as cocaine — to rats — who preferred the Oreos to drugs

Is it candy or the event?

Introducing results from new studies after the National Institute of Health announcement, Yale Scientic pointed out the following:

In 1982, the National Institute of Health announced that no link between sugar and hyperactivity had been scientifically proven. Why, then, does this myth still persist? It may be mostly psychological. As previously stated, experimentation has shown that parents who believe in a link between sugar and hyperactivity see one, even though others do not. Another possibility is that children tend to be more excited at events like birthday and Halloween parties where sugary foods are usually served. People may have confused proximity with correlation although the environment is probably more to blame than the food.

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. I have the same reaction when I see a tray of cannolis, and Halloween size peanut butter cups, chocolate crunchies, and almond joy.

The anti-sugar lobby suggests 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. How does this affect children?

While there may be no direct correlation between sugar and hyperactivity, sugar is linked to obesity, childhood diabetes, and trips to the dentist because of cavities. 

On Halloween, what are parents to do? 

1.  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.

2. 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.  

3. Become the Switch Witch:  Let your child select three or four pieces of candy to eat right away and then leave the rest for the “Switch Witch” in a bag or small pumpkin.Related to the concept of the Tooth Fairy, by morning, the "Switch Witch" will replace the candy with a toy or game. 

4. Hide and seek: 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.

With chocolate, follow your heart:

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.

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

Resources

Does Sugar Really Make Children Hyper? Yale Scientific Magazine 

The Addictive Oreo Cookie Study: Connecticut College

Copyright 2015 Rita Watson

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