Sweet! Candy industry says frequent intake not linked to obesity or heart disease

At a time when the spotlight is focused on obesity more than ever, new research suggests that frequency of candy consumption is not associated with weight or certain adverse health risks. According to a recent data analysis published in the April 30th issue of Nutrition Journal, adults who consume candy at least every other day are no more likely to be overweight nor have greater risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) than moderate consumers (about once a week) or even less frequent candy eaters (less than 3 times per month).1

Almost all adults (96%) reported eating candy, but there is variability in frequency and quantity consumed at a given time. Previous research has shown that candy consumers are not more likely to be overweight or have greater risk factors for chronic disease than non-consumers of candy. 2 This research showed that even the consumers who reported eating the most candy on a given day were not more likely to be at risk for increased weight or disease. Such findings were surprising and required further investigation which this new study set out to do, delving into the role of usual frequency of candy consumption and health/weight outcomes.

This study found that frequency of candy consumption was not associated with the risk of obesity, using objective measures such as BMI, waist circumference and skinfold thickness. Additionally, frequency of candy consumption was not associated with markers of cardiovascular disease risk including blood pressure, LDL- and HDL-cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. Frequency of candy consumption was based on analyses of food frequency questionnaires and data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) – the most recent data set in which these food frequency questionnaires were available – of more than 5,000 U.S. adults ages 19 and older.

“We did not find an association between frequency of candy intake and BMI or cardiovascular risk factors among adults,” notes lead author Mary M. Murphy, MS, RD of Exponent®, Inc., Center for Chemical Regulation & Food Safety.

The study certainly doesn’t provide evidence that candy can be consumed without limits. However, these results suggest that most people are treating themselves to candy without increasing their risk of obesity or cardiovascular disease. More research is needed to further understand the role candy plays in life and the best tips for candy lovers to include their favorite treats as a part of a happy healthy lifestyle.

Candy’s Contribution to Total Calories, Sugar and Saturated Fat is small

candy2According to the National Cancer Institute’s analysis of NHANES 05-06 data (same timeframe as this study), candy contributed an estimated 44 calories per day, or only about 2% of the total caloric intake of an average adult.3

In addition, candy accounted for slightly more than one teaspoon of added sugars (approximately 5 g) or 20 kcal in the diets of adults on a daily basis,4 which corresponds to a fraction of the 100-150 calorie upper limit of added sugars recommended by the American Heart Association.5 By comparison the top three dietary sources of added sugars for adults – sugary drinks, grain-based desserts, and sweetened fruit drinks – account for approximately 60% of the total added sugars intake.

Furthermore, data from the National Cancer Institute’s analysis of NHANES 05-06 indicate that candy accounted for only 3.1% of the total saturated fat intake by the US population aged 2 years, or slightly less than 1 g based on a total saturated fat intake of 27.8 g/day.

“There is a place for little pleasures, such as candy, in life. 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,” said Laura Shumow, MHS, Director of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, National Confectioners Association.