There’s too much high fructose corn syrup in many commercial Halloween candy that just isn’t healthy for children’s digestive systems, according to the October 20, 2004 news release, “Honey could be healthy alternative to high-fructose corn syrup in Halloween candy.” Soda, Halloween candy and other food products that contain high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners could one day get a fresh makeover using honey, one of the most ancient sweeteners, researchers say.
And children are as happy whether they receive a toy or candy at Halloween, according to the October 16, 2003 news release, Children are happy with toys or candy at Halloween. Also, the October 29, 2007 news release lists “Food ‘tricks’ that combat sneaky, creepy Halloween treats.”
Many candy bars contain 60 to 100 calories each. According to the October 29, 2013 USA Today article by Nanci Hellmich, “Scary amount of candy will be consumed on Halloween.” That article refers to the NPD Group, which does market research on eating trends. And according to the NPD Group’s research, almost every child in the USA will have candy on Halloween, and about half of the adults will eat some.
That compares to 24% of all adults and kids who have candy on a typical day, and about 4% of all candy consumed in this country occurs on that one day, says the NPD Group’s research. The NPD Group, Inc. (formerly National Purchase Diary) is a leading global market research company
Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say that honey may be a healthier alternative than corn syrup due to its higher level of antioxidants, compounds which are believed to fight cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
Honey, which contains a number of antioxidant components that act as preservatives, also shows promise as a replacement for some synthetic antioxidants widely used as preservatives in salad dressings and other foods, according to Nicki Engeseth, Ph.D., associate professor of food chemistry at the university.
Dark-colored honey, such as buckwheat honey, is generally thought to contain higher levels of antioxidants than the light-colored varieties, according to the scientists. Previous studies by the researchers suggest that honey may have the same level of disease-fighting antioxidants as that of some common fruits.
The current study was presented by Engeseth back in Oct. 19, 2004 at the 36th Great Lakes regional meeting of the American Chemical Society, held in Peoria, Ill. ACS is the world’s largest scientific society.
Why are so many kids being swamped with candy or cans of sugary sodas on Halloween?
If people gave out fresh fruit, many parents would toss the fruit in the garbage on the fear that the fruit had been tampered with in ways to hurt kids. In fact, most unwrapped candies are thrown away because people fear others will hurt their children, since the news is full of stories of mean people playing tricks on strange kids that come to their doors.
What kids fear most when trick or treating in their neighborhoods is the angry man who yells at them and chases them when they knock on a stranger’s door, or worse. There are human monsters out there. So wrapped candies and sealed soda cans are accepted.
Not everyone celebrates Halloween
The exception to the “almost all kids eating candy” may not be true of some of the religious groups who don’t celebrate Halloween or among the vegan community that may favor nuts, seeds, and some fruits over candy and cookies. Not every child is exposed to sugary treats, but most in the general public are.
If you follow one of the orthodox or ultra-orthodox religions based on the Old Testament, do you think you’d send your children door to door threatening to ‘trick’ a neighbor if he or she doesn’t ‘treat’ you to some candy? After all, the ingredients in the candy would not be known. Are they Halal or Kosher, for example? Not all groups in the USA celebrate Halloween or decorate their doors with ghost-spirits, pumpkins, skulls, and graveyard paraphernalia. Heavens to Betsy, no.
Halloween isn’t celebrated by numerous ethnic groups in the USA. More likely, holiday fixings might be bowls of nuts, seeds, and fruits besides traditional meals. For example, October saw cultural and religious holidays for those who don’t celebrate Halloween in the USA. You had major Hindu, Buddhist, Moslem, and Jewish holidays in October where favorite foods were served from almonds and raisins to sesame seeds and walnuts. And some religious groups from various ethnic communities celebrate Halloween and their own traditional holiday foods and celebrations. For example, Freethinkers Day on October 12th celebrated free thought and logic with events around the USA. So what’s left? Halloween candy for the rest of us.
It’s to the profit of dentists. Although most dentists warn sticky parents and kids about chewy candies, secretly, the damage done to teeth on Halloween candies ends up being profitable for dentists. If kids didn’t have cavities, they’d earn somewhat less. What dentists may not tell kids is why they shouldn’t eat sticky candies. The stickiness impacts the sealants on their teeth which prevents cavities.
The taste of chocolate is so addictive that adults prefer it over any other candy
Have you ever noticed how many more chocolate shops there are in various US towns or cities compared to shops selling hard or chewy candies? Adults prefer chocolate candy. According to the NPD Group’s research, children eat four hard and chewy candies for every one eaten by adults. So chocolate is still ‘king’ of the candies as well as poured over other sweet foods or sipped in cups of hot cocoa.
Research on sweets from the NPD Group also found that on any given day, 10% of adults and kids have a cookie, but on Halloween 14% have one. For more information, check out the sites, Most popular Halloween candy in the USA, Ways to save on Halloween candy, or Which candy bar is your NBA basketball team?
Halloween candy is disruptive to the digestive systems of older adults
Check out the October 15, 2013 news release, “Halloween candy spooks aging digestive systems! Research in fruit flies helps explain why.” Or see the news release, “Honey could be healthy alternative to high-fructose corn syrup in Halloween candy.”
Have you ever wondered why young children can eat bags of Halloween candy and feel fine the next day – compared to adults who experience all sorts of agony following the same junk food binge? Evolution and a gene called Foxo may be to blame. Working in fruit flies, scientists at the Buck Institute have identified a mechanism that helps the flies adapt to changes in diet when they’re young; they’ve discovered that same mechanism gets misregulated as the flies age, disrupting metabolic homeostasis, or balance.
In a study appearing in Cell Reports, researchers focus on the function of the Foxo gene in the intestines of fruit flies. Foxo is widely expressed throughout the body (both in flies and in humans), particularly in muscle, the liver and pancreas – and can regulate many aspects of metabolism in response to insulin signaling.
According to the October 15, 2013 news release, “Halloween candy spooks aging digestive systems! Research in fruit flies helps explain why,” lead author Jason Karpac, PhD, Assistant Research Professor at the Buck, says when young animals experience a change in diet, insulin signaling gets repressed, which turns on Foxo. “In normal young animals Foxo turns on and off quite easily, allowing for a seamless adjustment to changes in diet,” said Karpac. “The process is evolutionarily conserved, it protects young animals and helps guarantee their survival,” he said in the news release.
But Karpac says as the animals age, Foxo stops responding to insulin signaling (not a good thing for non-youngsters who crave that Halloween candy). “In the flies Foxo gets chronically turned on, which disrupts lipid metabolism. The process reflects the development of a general inflammatory condition in the aging gut.”
“It has been proposed that our modern high-sugar/high fat diets can lead to misregulation of evolutionarily conserved dietary responses,” said Buck Institute faculty Heinrich Jasper, PhD, lead scientist on the study, according to the news release. “That may be the case. Metabolism is a very complex process — lots of things can go wrong which increases stress in the animals.”
Jasper says, in the news release, that the age-related loss of metabolic balance is a risk factor for many human pathologies. The goal is to identify age-related changes in metabolic pathways with the hope of being able to intervene. “Our aim is to develop treatments that would preserve well-functioning metabolism as part of healthy aging – something that would likely not ever include indulging in candy binges.”
Researchers define molecular basis of human ‘sweet tooth’
Halloween turns millions of kids into candy-loving monsters with more than ample supply of confections to satisfy their “sweet tooth.” Now, Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers have moved closer to understanding why some people cannot resist the impulses brought on by their sweet tooth, according to an October 31, 2003 news release, “Researchers define molecular basis of human ‘sweet tooth’.”
The researchers created mice with the same sweet-tooth preferences as humans by inserting the gene that codes for a human sweet-taste receptor protein into the animals. They also inserted an entirely different receptor gene into the taste cells of mice, thereby producing animals that perceive a previously tasteless molecule as sweet.
Both of these experiments demonstrate that receptor molecules on the tongue for both the sweet and “savory” umami tastes are what triggers taste cells on the tongue and palate to transmit taste signals to the brain. Umami taste responds to amino acids such as monosodium glutamate.
The researchers said their findings open the way for tracing the circuitry for sweet and umami tastes all the way to the centers in the brain that perceive those tastes. The findings also suggest that individual variations in the “sweet tooth” response may lie in subtle genetic differences in receptor molecules that perceive sweet taste.
The findings were reported in the October 31, 2003, issue of the journal Cell by a research team led by Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Charles Zuker at the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Ryba of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
“In our previous work, we reported that we had found the best candidate sweet and umami receptor molecules,” said Zuker, according to the October 31, 2003 news release, Researchers define molecular basis of human ‘sweet tooth’. “But there remained two major outstanding questions. First, do these receptors function in vivo as taste detectors? And second, are they members of a larger group of such receptors, or are they the receptors for sweet and umami taste? These experiments have conclusively answered both questions; sweet and umami taste are mediated entirely by these receptors.”
The candidate receptors that Zuker, Ryba and their colleagues identified are complex proteins on the surfaces of taste cells. When stimulated, these proteins switch on internal cellular machinery, which begins the process of sending a signal about the taste to the brain. The umami receptor is a combination of two protein subunits called T1R1 and T1R3. Sweet, on the other hand, is mediated by two different receptors: a combination of T1R2 and T1R3, which responds to natural and artificial sweeteners, and T1R3 which responds only to high concentrations of sugars.
In their experiments, Grace Zhao and colleagues first produced knockout mice lacking each one of the three types of subunits. To test the response of the knockout mice to sweet or umami tastes, they measured the behavioral preference of the mice for either plain or flavored water. They also measured the direct response of the taste cells to sweet- or umami-tasting chemicals by performing physiological studies on the nerves that carry taste information.
Their studies showed that mice lacking either the T1R1 or T1R3 subunits lost all response to umami tastes. And knockout mice lacking either T1R2 or T1R3 lost preference for almost all sweet tastes. However, those mice retained some ability to respond to high concentrations of natural sugars, suggesting that either of the subunits could function on its own as a “low-affinity” sweet receptor. When the scientists produced double-knockout mice lacking both components of the sweet receptors, those animals lost all response to sweet-tasting chemicals.
Why artificial sweeteners never attain the level of sweetness that natural sugars do
Additional cell-based studies revealed that the T1R3 protein alone responds to high concentrations of natural sugars, but not to lower concentrations, or to artificial sweeteners. “This finding may explain why artificial sweeteners never attain the level of sweetness that natural sugars do,” said Zuker. “Artificial sweeteners activate only the T1R2+T1R3 combination of subunits in the sweet receptor, while natural sugars also activate T1R3 alone.”
Consumers may wonder why a sweetener can be 300 times sweeter than sugar, so sweet that it may even taste bitter on the tongue to some people, and yet taste so different and so much sweeter, that natural sugars are preferred. One puzzle about sweet taste is why humans can taste a number of natural and artificial sweeteners that rodents cannot. These include the intensely sweet (to humans) proteins monellin and thaumatin found in certain fruits, and the artificial sweetener aspartame. (What about plant-based stevia or xylitol tasting so much sweeter than table sugar or honey?)
Demonstrating the human sweet tooth preferences
To demonstrate that the human “sweet-tooth” preferences lie in the receptors, the researchers generated mice with the human T1R2 receptor, which is significantly different in sequence from the mouse counterpart. “We found that these mice with the human receptors like the same sweet molecules that we humans do,” said Zuker in the news release. “They loved both the sweet proteins and the aspartame flavor.
“This proves that the species differences are a reflection of the sequence of the receptors, and strongly suggests that our own sweet preferences are likely to be not simply an issue of cultural differences, as some have argued, but to be genetically encoded.” For example, slight genetic differences in receptor proteins “might explain why one person needs five spoons of sugar in his coffee and another needs only two — because the first person’s sweet receptors need more sugar to get the same kick.”
To demonstrate conclusively that the responses of the taste cells themselves are what determine taste perception, Zhao and her colleagues performed an even more radical genetic replacement. They introduced into the sweet-tasting cells of mice a receptor for an entirely unrelated, synthetic opioid compound.
When the mice were presented with the compound, “much to our delight, these mice were strongly attracted to this novel chemical,” said Zuker in the news release. “They thought it was sweet, even though we humans (or even the very same mice prior to expressing the gene) would find it tasteless.”
The ability to genetically manipulate taste cells in such a way gives researchers a major entrée into the taste centers of the brain. “Now we can follow the connectivity from the tongue all the way to the brain and begin to define what cells in the brain are responsible for behavioral responses to each of these taste modalities,” he said. By inserting foreign receptors into taste cells, said Zuker, researchers can be assured that they are tracking the behavior of just that taste circuit and not others that might be triggered by the same receptor — in essence “a labeled line.”