Halloween is approaching. And you know what that means: An imminent tsunami of Halloween candy. Kids (and plenty of adults) will stuff obscene amounts of Hershey’s bars, mini Snickers, Tootsie Rolls, lollipops, and even (for some unfathomable reason) Candy Corn down their gullets over the weekend and well past the official Halloween itself next Tuesday. And that mountain of sweets means particularly extravagant sugar consumption in a country that already faces scary health threats associated with eating way too much sugar.
There aren’t exactly many rigorous Halloween candy-based scientific studies out there. But retail and other industry reports, like this infographic from discount aggregating site Coupon Follow, suggest the average trick-or-treating kid can consume around three cups of sugar (or about 7,000 calories of candy) on Halloween.
For context: That’s 675 grams of sugar, or the same as chomping down almost 169 standard sugar cubes. Yum.
The thing is, two or three days of (really excessive) excess isn’t necessarily a make-or-break for long-term health unless you already suffer from a serious medical condition. A much larger problem is general sugar consumption trends in the U.S.
Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the Union of Concerned Scientists notes “that American children between the ages of 2 and 19 consumed 124 grams of sugar, or 29 teaspoons, every day. Teenage boys in particular (age 12-19) consume an average of 161 grams—or nearly three-quarters of a cup—of sugar daily.” That comes from all kinds of sources, including processed foods, sugary drinks and sodas, and other assorted culinary junk. In 2016, the American Heart Association recommended that children aged 2 to 18 should consume fewer than 25 grams of added sugar daily.
It’s not hard to see why. A growing collection of research suggests that excess added sugar in the diet has strong links to cancer, and is already strongly tied with obesity, diabetes, and heart and other deadly cardiovascular diseases. Going all out on Halloween is probably fine—as long as people have a more balanced day-to-day approach.