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Happy Valentine’s Day! Valentines is the fourth biggest holiday of the year for purchasing candy. For this special day, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of candy will be sold. Can you enjoy those sweets without shame?

Sugars have been blamed for diabetes, hyperactivity in children, and obesity. Are these accusations truth or hype?  The good news—research fails to support the beliefs of many that sugar causes these conditions.

Diabetes: All sugars and starches break down in the body to glucose. The body uses insulin to change blood sugar (glucose) into body energy. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces insufficient amounts or no insulin. Type 2 diabetes, the most common, results when the pancreas cannot make enough insulin for body needs. Sugar does not cause diabetes, but obesity as a result of consuming too many high-calorie foods is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.  

Hyperactivity: In the early 1970s, Dr. Benjamin Feingold proposed the theory that diet, namely sugar, affects children’s behavior. More than 20 scientific studies failed to support that claim. While activities such as parties or other events with excessive sweets may cause excitement, scientific evidence maintains that sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children.

Obesity: With the growing epidemic of obesity, is sugar the villain? One teaspoon of sugar yields 15 calories. According to the Sugar Association, those calories are no more fattening than 15 calories from other sources. Eating too many calories makes you fat. However, excessive sugar, like other high-calorie substances, will add to weight.

Are there negatives to sugar in the diet? Sugary foods can cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels that plunge sharply. Thus, while sugar may trigger a quick energy response, the sudden drop can result in tiredness or weakness. Some studies do link sugar to dental caries (decay). Foods, such as candy, that adhere to the teeth or that are held in the mouth create ideal environments for development of tooth decay. Although significant at all ages, prolonged mouth contact to sugar is especially harmful to children.

So, what are your best options for Valentine’s Day and everyday when faced with delectable sugar-filled goodies? Make the holiday and the loving thoughts linger by sharing with others and limiting your choice to one or two morsels. With moderation and careful selection of other foods, you can enjoy that sweet pleasure—guilt free.

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