Candy Doesn't Cause Childhood Obesity, Study Suggests

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By Gillie Houston Posted May 05, 2016

In the kids who reportedly consumed the highest amount of chocolate and candy, the odds of being overweight or obese were 18 percent lower.

By now, it's common knowledge that cutting added sugar means improved health, especially when it comes to children. In recent years, the campaign against sugar—and sugary beverages in particular—has quickly become the backbone of the fight against childhood obesity. But, are all sugary foods created equal? One new study suggests when it comes to early obesity, candy might not be the culprit.

A new study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, aimed to test the association between American children's candy and obesity and its related diseases. The authors pooled 11 recent studies that focused on the relationship between candy and overweight kids and teens, resulting in a test group of nearly 180,000.

Contrary to the researchers'—and our own—expectations, their analysis of the data found that the children who ate the most chocolate and candy tended to be slimmer. In fact, in the kids who reportedly consumed the highest amount of chocolate and candy, the odds of being overweight or obese were 18 percent lower.

In their conclusions, the authors of the study voiced their own surprise, noting that the result "might reflect a true inverse association, reverse causality, or differential underreporting in heavier individuals," suggesting that a possible reason for the unexpected results could be that obese and overweight children simply underreported the amount of candy they consumed, as opposed to the children at a healthier weight.

Of course, the study doesn't conclude that more sugar makes for a healthier child, but perhaps a different sugar source is more to blame for obesity: beverages. According to the National Cancer Institute, the average kid takes in 5 times more calories from sugary drinks than from candy. Since candy tends to be a special treat, whereas soda and juice might be a part of a child's daily diet, the intake of candy itself might not be to blame for an unhealthy weight.

Though this study suggests that a little candy in a kid's diet won't make-or-break their weight, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans still recommend limiting sugar to less than 10 percent of calories a day. And perhaps that's more likely if they're dabbling in Kit-Kats rather than Big Gulp-sized sodas.


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