The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

79° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Nutritionist shares fact to know before indulging in Halloween candy


    Courtesy of Jennifer W. Bea

    Halloween is that time of year where everyone gets their party on. It also seems to be the one day when we tend to overindulge in more sugar than we normally do.

    On average, according to the American Heart Association, an American intakes roughly 20 teaspoons of sugar daily. That can lead to around 150 pounds of sugar per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Added sugars in food contribute a great deal to how much total sugar we intake and can add excess calories without any nutrition, which can lead to weight gain. Added sugar is placed in things normally not considered to contain sugar, such as certain cereals, yogurt, ketchup and sport drinks.

    A consistent overindulgence in sugar can have dramatic effects on the body. Jennifer Bea, an assistant professor of medicine and assistant research scientist in the nutritional sciences department, shares her insight on the topic with the Daily Wildcat.

    Daily Wildcat: How does sugar affect the body?

    Bea: Depending on the kind of food you intake, it varies. There are foods that are high in glycemic index, which is essentially more sugar. While being different from the sugars one typically thinks of, like candy, these high-GI foods can still impact your blood sugar. Sugar, and the insulin release it triggers, can also help signal [to] your brain that you are full. If one exercises regularly and eats healthy, if on a few occasions out of the year one overindulges in sugars, the body has the amazing ability to rebalance itself. The body is always working to keep this balance. But if one consistently overindulgences in sugary treats, this can damage the body. Overindulgence in sugar and the increased body weight and body fat that typically results can result in resistance to insulin. Insulin resistance means that glucose is not being absorbed as well as it should and builds up in the blood. This can lead to pre-diabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

    What are the difference between good and bad sugars?

    Things like sugars in fruits, vegetables and certain grains and cereals, like whole grain varieties, have natural sugars. But if eaten in excess, even these can be bad for you. As long as you are eating healthy, balancing your carbohydrates and proteins, as well as exercising enough, the body will work to balance itself out if you occasionally indulge.

    What are some of the highest forms of sugar intake that we consume?

    Some of the major contributors to high sugar intake is in things that we don’t really think about, like frappuccino drinks or soft drinks. There are sugars even in alcoholic drinks, and we don’t really notice or count the calories in beverages as well. You also don’t feel the same distention or full feeling in your belly. That distention is a key signal to the brain that you are full, and it is relatively absent with beverages, so we are likely to intake more of a beverage than we would with solid foods for the same calories per ounce. Labeling of beverages is getting much better, so we can all be a bit more conscious of our choice of coffee, smoothie or soft drink.

    Is it worse to consume sugar in the amounts we do as we grow older?

    As we grow older, typically starting around the ages of 30 to 40, our metabolism tends to slow down. So, this makes it harder to for us to burn off the calories that we consume and may require us to be more active than we are when we are younger. The metabolism of a young person is working at a higher rate, allowing them to eat more calories. To consistently eat the amount of calories and sugar that we do when we are younger will be detrimental to us as we get older, especially if we do not maintain a healthy level of exercise. For adults, the minimum level of exercise to prevent chronic disease is 150 minutes of moderate [exercise] or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic [exercise] per week or an equivalent mix of the two.

    Any advice to avoid overindulging in sugar?

    Regular exercise and eating healthy is important, but it can be hard to stay away from sugar, especially with its easy access in our society. Take sugar in small portions once in a while if you have eaten healthy and gotten adequate exercise for the day. If you’re at a party, you can find a creative way to drink a healthy beverage while still having fun and fitting in, like mixing sparkling water with a shot of cranberry juice and a squirt of lime. Get rid of leftover Halloween candy and treats in your house. You may not want to because it cost you money, but think of the cost to your health if you graze on it for a week or a month.


    Follow Cristien Keeme-Sayre on Twitter.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search