Unhealthy Halloween Treats to Avoid
Putting on a mask may scare a few of us, but the scariest part of Halloween is what we are feeding innocent kids – virtual poison for their developing teeth, livers and blood sugar – increasing the risk of diabetes, obesity and a myriad of cardiovascular conditions.
Acidic candy problems
Yesterday the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) put out a release that warned kids and their parents of one of the dangers of many of the treats given to trick-or-treaters on Halloween: Tooth decay and gum disease.
The appropriate press release described the dangers of particular types of sweets, and which were worse than others.
The worst treats, according to the release, are chewy and sticky sweets, which include gummy bears and taffy candies. The release doesn’t mention chewy candy bars, but this is assumed. Removing sticky and chewy treats from the teeth can prove difficult with simple brushing, according to the report.
The AGD report also rightfully condemns sour candy. The acids in these candies can break down teeth enamel and cause decay, according to AGD spokesperson Cynthia Sherwood, DDS, FAGD. “These candies are a serious source of tooth decay, particularly when they get stuck in the crevices between teeth, making it nearly impossible for saliva to wash them away,” Dr. Sherwood stated.
The interesting recommendation here on acidic candies is to give the sour candy at least 30 minutes after eating before brushing. While this seems to contradict the warning that the sour candy can get into the crevices and quickly break down the enamel, Dr. Sherwood says that waiting 30 minutes allows the saliva to help balance the acid in the mouth, “otherwise, they will be brushing the acid onto more tooth surfaces and increasing the risk of enamel erosion.”
Does this assume that the kids are using toothpaste containing calcium chloride and/or calcium bicarbonate (baking soda), which serves to neutralize the acids in the mouth and on the teeth? Perhaps this is assuming kids are either brushing without toothpaste, or they are using some of the sugary commercial toothpastes out on the market today.
Thankfully, the AGD release also mentions that other sugary snacks, which include cookies, cake, candy corn and the like should also be avoided if possible to avert tooth decay.
Refined sugar overload
Furthermore, good ol’ refined sugar and its cousins, evaporated cane juice and high fructose corn syrup, have been implicated in a variety of blood sugar-related metabolic disorders, including diabetes, heart disease, hormone issues and cardiovascular disorders according to recent research. Research has also cited the addictive potential of refined sugars.
A 2012 review of research from the California State University at Fullerton’s Department of Health Science confirmed that refined sugar-dense foods increase dopamine levels among the cells, which creates an addictive effect. Furthermore, dramatic rises in blood glucose levels stimulate tryptophan absorption and conversion to serotonin – another mood chemical. This prompted a conclusion stating, “There appear to be several biological and psychological similarities between food addiction and drug dependence including craving and loss of control.”
What does this say about those of us who are enabling sugar-bingeing on Halloween by our children? Doesn’t this mean that we are adding to a child’s risk of addiction, and their future risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity simply with the addition of another candy to their bag of treats?
Disappointingly, instead of recommending natural treats, the AGD report condemns dried fruit because it is also sticky and can promote tooth decay. Instead, the release recommends sugar-free candies, which typically contain a number of artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose (1,6-dichloro-1,6-dideoxy-beta-D fructofuranosyl-4-cloro-4-deoxy-alpha-D-glactopyranoside), aspartame (phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol), and/or saccharin (o-sulfobenzimide; 2,3-dihydro-3-oxobenzisosulfonazole) – each of which have caused concern about possible health risks. Do we want to experiment on our children by giving them artificial sweeteners?
Fruit and other natural goodies may provide the answer, because we can supply sweetness without addiction. The author remembers fondly the fruit put in his Halloween bag as a young child – which included apples, mandarins, bananas, raisins, figs and the king of Halloween fruits – the pomegranate. This produced a life-long dedication to natural foods that have been shown to reduce cancer risk, stimulate immunity and provide important phytonutrients.
What about fruits?
Oh but aren’t we concerned about the “sourness” or the “stickiness” of these fruits as our kids eat them? Won’t these fruits rot their teeth?
Healthy children have been eating fruits for thousands of years. The human body was designed to eat fruit. The short and long-chain polysaccharides within whole fruits – dried or not – help feed our intestinal bacteria. These polysaccharide fibers (such as FOS) also help maintain a gradual release of the sugars of these fruits – taking a burden off of our blood sugar and our livers. Fruit fibers such as pectin also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, preventing cardiovascular disease – a growing epidemic among sugar-rich kids.
Other healthy treats include oat bars using maple syrup or fruit, nut logs, apple crisps, coconut-date logs and many other healthy homemade treats.
Fruits, coconut, oats, nuts and other whole foods also contain a myriad of antioxidants and phytonutrients that keep our kids’ bodies healthy during their most important growing period.
Yes, fruits are the perfect treat. They are sweet, yet they pack a serious, healthful punch. And yes, it is best to brush the teeth not just after eating fruits – with a little wait to allow saliva to form – but more importantly, before eating fruits. Brushing before, with a toothpaste containing calcium chloride or sodium bicarbonate, will create a more alkaline environment which will help neutralize the acids before they adhere on the teeth.
More importantly, maintaining healthy oral probiotics will keep oral bacteria populations controlled, which will also reduce cavities and gum disease.
Best and Worst Halloween Candy Options for Children’s Teeth. Academy of General Dentistry. Press release. October 15, 2012.
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