Sweet news for candy lovers: New research suggests candy has been unfairly characterized as a dietary evil and, in fact, does not contribute to obesity, heart disease, or other health problems, when eaten in moderation.
The study, published in the Nutrition Journal, found adults who consume candy at least every other day are no more likely to be overweight or have greater risk factors for cardiovascular disease than those who indulge about once a week or even less frequently (a few times per month).
Frequency of candy consumption was based on analyses of food questionnaires and data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) — a federal poll of more than 5,000 American adults. This results showed candy consumption was not associated with the risk of obesity, using objective measures such as body mass index (BMI), belt size, and skinfold thickness. Additionally, candy consumption was not linked with heart disease, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, or insulin resistance.
“We did not find an association between frequency of candy intake and BMI or cardiovascular risk factors among adults,” noted lead researcher Mary M. Murphy, of the consulting firm Exponent Inc.’s Center for Chemical Regulation & Food Safety.
Among the specific findings:
- Candy contributed an estimated 44 calories per day — about 2 percent of the total caloric intake of an average adult.
- Candy accounted for slightly more than one teaspoon of added sugars — a fraction of the 100-150 calorie upper limit of added sugars recommended by the American Heart Association. By comparison sugary drinks, grain-based desserts, and sweetened fruit drinks account for approximately 60 percent of the total added sugars intake.
- Candy accounted for only 3.1 percent of the total saturated fat intake of most adults.
Researchers noted the study doesn't provide evidence that candy can be consumed without limits. But the results suggest that most people who treat themselves to candy don’t greatly boost their risk of obesity or cardiovascular disease.
“There is a place for little pleasures, such as candy, in life,” said Laura Shumow, director of scientific and regulatory affairs for the National Confectioners Association. “A little treat in moderation can have a positive impact on mood and satisfaction, and as emerging research suggests, minimal impact on diet and health risk.”
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