So, your kids are going trick-or-treating and will fill the house with Halloween candy. Mini chocolate bars, candy corn and packaged candies as far as the eye can see. Though it may be tempting to throw a handful of the sweet treats into your lunch bag for work tomorrow, the tiny goodies may have a larger affect on your day than you planned.
Your body is built to love sugar. As soon as you pop a candy-or any sugary item-into your mouth, your taste buds send signals to your brain and fires up your reward system. Your brain’s reward system does a lot of complicated things, but its primary function is to answer the question, “Should I do that again?” When it comes to eating sugar, the answer is a resounding yes.
Specifically, sugar prompts the release of dopamine—a type of neurotransmitter that kicks in response to pleasurable activities. It’s a similar reaction that happens in the brain after consuming alcohol, nicotine, or illicit drugs, and the reaction that can lead to addiction. Sugar is no different; the more of it you have, the more you want.
As great as the immediate reaction to sugar feels though, the candy will also release a large amount of glucose into your blood stream. This produces a state of high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. If large amounts of sugar are a large, ongoing part of your diet, this will eventually lead to serious complications over a period of time, such as kidney damage, cardiovascular damage or diabetes.
In the short term, though, small spikes to the blood sugar throughout the day can also affect your body in big ways. Shortly after eating those small sugary treats, you may notice that your attention span is shorter, your memory is affected and your processing speed for complex thinking suffers. You also might feel sluggish, sleepy and glum.
These feelings will likely make you reach for more sugary energy or caffeine throughout the day to stay energized, which will only continue the cycle.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever eat candy. Everything can be enjoyed in moderation, but avoid over-eating sugary treats too often or as an energy burst in the afternoon.