A new study says that people who consume a “moderate” amount of candy per day have a slightly lower body mass index than people who don’t eat candy. They also run a 15 percent lower risk than the general population of developing metabolic syndrome, the cluster of conditions that is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
“Moderate” consumption is defined as 1.3 ounces-about 36.4 grams-per day. That’s equal to two “fun-size” packets of plain M&Ms, which total 176 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrates.
The study, co-sponsored by the National Confectioners Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, confirms what dietitians and nutrition scientists already know: Moderate consumption of sweets isn’t what makes people pile on weight. Other factors at work may include the following:
• People who consume moderate amounts of candy may tend to exercise more to make up for their sugar consumption, thus offsetting any ill effects from eating sweets.
• The major food contributors to obesity include such non-candy items as sugary sodas, extra-large restaurant portions, baked goods, and chips-foods that people consume in far larger quantities than candy.
Lead researcher Carol O’Neil and her colleagues at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center in Baton Rouge analyzed more than 15,000 diet surveys taken among U.S. adults between 1999 and 2004. Among respondents, only 20 percent said they consumed candy. The candy eaters had a slightly lower BMI than non-candy eaters, 27.7 versus 28.2. (Although the candy eaters did fare marginally better than non-candy eaters on their BMI figures, it’s helpful to remember that a BMI of 25 to 30 is considered “overweight.”)
The study also depended on people’s recall of whether they had consumed candy the day before. Because memories may be faulty when it comes to eating “extras” like candy, it’s possible that the 20 percent figure for candy consumers is too low.
The study was published in the February issue of the journal Nutrition Research.