Weekly check up: Halloween sugar high

Break out the costumes and candy because it’s that time of year again – time for trick or treating. And whether your treat of choice is classic candy corn or bite-sized candy bars, it’s common knowledge that sugar goes hand in hand with Halloween.

Growing up, children are often warned by their parents against gorging on candy. They don’t want to deal with hyperactive children on a Halloween “sugar high.”

But now that students are free to indulge in all the Halloween treats of their choice, without receiving any backlash from mom and dad, the real question is – do you need to limit candy intake to stave off sugar rush?

Susan Haney, Student Health Services clinical outreach coordinator, said the answer is “no.” She said the label “sugar high” is actually very misleading.

“Sugar does not make people high in the sense a drug would,” she said. “It might give you a change in energy level, you feel more pepped up, but you won’t feel euphoria.”

Haney said that research has shown mixed results about the truth behind a “candy high.” While parents have always claimed that children are overly energized after eating a lot of sugar, most of the research hasn’t always backed that up.

“Sugar might make you more energetic, but the bigger problem with that is because the blood sugar level goes suddenly up; it goes down just as fast,” Haney said.

This sudden drop in blood sugar is what many people know as a “crash.” But eating sugar with a balanced meal is what avoids all of this from happening in the first place, Haney added.

“If you had nothing to eat all day but a candy bar, you probably won’t feel fine. You’d have a boost of quick energy and then you’d feel tired,” she said. “If you have a healthy lunch and a candy bar, you’d feel fine.”

Haney said people may be more susceptible to big jumps in their blood sugar level on Halloween because they don’t eat a good meal before the festivities, and will binge on candy on an empty stomach.

Even though many may feel sick after consuming large amounts of candy, Haney says that it is not because candy is has no nutritional value, but because it was eaten on an empty stomach.

“Anytime you skip meals, the first thing you eat is going to be really hard. Your digestive juices need to get started,” Haney said. “Sugar things are really easy to digest, much easier than fatty foods.”

But she did say that students should be wary of certain sugar products like caramel and chocolate. They could be more hurtful on your stomach than your energy level.

“If the candy has high fat value, that could give you some stomachaches,” she said.

So before you go trick-or-treating, remember to eat a well-balanced meal to prevent yourself from crashing mid-festivities. And since it’s no secret that Halloween is yet another excuse to party for college students, it is probably a good idea to get some food in your stomach before the drinking begins as well.

When it comes to mixing the two – sugar and alcohol – Haney said not to worry.

“I don’t think there is anything specific in combining them,” she said. “One doesn’t boost the other.”

“Weekly check up” is a regular feature in the Life section. If you have a health topic you want to know more about, e-mail features@gwhatchet.com.

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