Sugar, sugar — you got us wanting you

GirlLolly

This past week the Wall Street Journal revealed that when Americans were asked which of four substances was more harmful to overall health—alcohol, marijuana, sugar or tobacco, sugar was deemed more harmful than marijuana. In a blog post the Journal went further and equated sugar with candy insinuating that consumers feel candy is more harmful than marijuana.

Before deciding that our fellow Americans are terribly uneducated, it’s important to note that alcohol and cigarettes came in at number 1 and 2 by a wide margin. But sugar was deemed more harmful than marijuana. Unfortunately, the supposed negative effects of sugar are much in the news whereas, with several states legalizing marijuana no one is talking about the need to remember that marijuana is a drug.

What’s the truth?

Marijuana:

Most marijuana is inhaled through the lungs, just like cigarettes. Marijuana smoke contains cancer-causing substances, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Prolonged and frequent use of marijuana can lead to impaired thinking skills and memory problems.

The overwhelming consensus from mental health professionals is that marijuana is not helpful—and potentially dangerous—for people with any form of mental illness. Using marijuana can directly worsen symptoms of anxiety, depression or schizophrenia through its actions on the brain.

And now about sugar:

Human bodies need glucose (sugar).  The cells in our body need it to function, and added sugars do not inherently differ from intrinsic or naturally-occurring sugars.

It’s all about balance, though, as too much sugar can increase caloric intake, causing weight gain—a risk factor for several diseases.

Nutrition experts and the scientific community generally agree that consumers can enjoy sweetened foods and beverages when consumed as part of a balanced diet with a physically active lifestyle.

And when it comes to candy, sugar has always and continues to be essential to the composition of candy products. The sweetness of sugar and the ability of sugars to crystalize are critical to the essence of candy. Additionally, sugars are important for the safety and quality of candy products. While sugars are essential to confectionery, candy is not a leading source of added sugars in the diet. Candy contributes only about 6 percent of added sugars according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Although sugars are a source of calories, available scientific evidence to date shows no direct connection between total sugar intake and obesity. Typically, candy only makes up 2 percent of calories in the average American’s diet and is only eaten about two or three times a week. Perhaps because it is usually consumed in small amounts, candy consumption is not associated with increased risk of obesity or cardiovascular disease risk; in fact, some kinds of candy like cocoa and dark chocolate have been shown to improve cardiovascular disease health.

Bottom line;  Candy and chocolate are indulgences, sweet treats that should be consumed mindfully and in moderation.

Flickr image credit: My friend Thea
courtesy of spaztacular

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