It happens to the best of us. You open a family-sized packet of gummy bears and a few Friends episodes later you’ve reached the bottom of the packet.
For most adults and kids, eating a whole bag of lollies -- or block of chocolate, for that matter -- is an easy feat. But consuming this much sugar isn’t great, for both long term and short-term health.
"Sugar is very calorie dense with hardly any nutrients, so lollies are empty calories and provide too many at once in terms of your daily intake. This can lead to obesity, which leads to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancers," Simone Austin, accredited practising dietitian and spokeswoman for the Dietitians Association of Australia, told The Huffington Post Australia.
Sugar is a form of carbohydrate that the body converts to glucose. While some sugar is absolutely fine, your body is not going to love it when you down a whole packet of lollies in one go. Here's what happens.
"Carbohydrates start to be digested in the mouth straight away as you’ve got digestive enzymes in your mouth. So some of the sugar basically enters through your cheeks," Austin said.
This, dear friends, is not a good thing. Yes, your dentist is right, however much we wish they weren't.
"Sugar is bad for your teeth," Austin said. "It feeds bacteria in your mouth that then break down the enamel on your teeth.
"Dental care is really important. The fact is you are going to have better nutrition long term if you’ve got good teeth. If you can’t chew things you won’t be able to eat all the healthy vegetables, fruit and meat and so on.
"Then the sugar enters your stomach, where it doesn’t really require much digestion at all and it gets absorbed in your small intestine," Austin told HuffPost Australia.
At this point you're probably not feeling so great because you’ve had a massive amount of sugar and not much else.
"That sugar load can often make you feel lethargic afterwards," Austin said.
Blood Sugar Level
"Then once it’s digested, we need the hormone insulin to pick up the glucose and take it into your cells so you can use it. If we have a lot of insulin circulating, one of insulin’s other jobs is fat storage. So you don’t want lots of insulin circulating around," Austin said.
Insulin is produced in the pancreas, and our body's insulin response is fairly rapid.
"For someone whose body is working really well, they will just pump out a lot of insulin to cope with that hit of sugar and be able to still control the blood sugar level. However, that excess insulin can then have that side effect of picking up the glucose and storing it as fat," Austin said.
"For someone whose insulin is maybe not working so well, then their blood sugar level could get high and that could be borderline diabetes, or someone with diabetes or perhaps undiagnosed diabetes."
"When you eat a few lollies, your brain tends to say, ‘I want some more, I like that taste,'" Austin said.
This is because when you eat sugar it floods an area in your brain called the nucleus accumbens with the 'reward' chemical dopamine. Yes, the same dopamine that is associated with addictive drugs.
Like cocaine, sugar is highly addictive, which is why it's so darn difficult to stop at just a few lollies.
However, there are some tricks to help you not eat a whole packet of lollies, block of chocolate, or whatever your sweet vice may be.
1. Don't buy the big packets.
"The trick is to buy smaller packets and to buy a packet that is going to be shared with people, rather than a packet each," Austin told HuffPost Australia.
"I think a lollipop is a better way to go, but I’m not talking about those massive lollipops. A lollipop lasts a long time and it’s a lot less sugar than those jelly lollies you can chew up in 10 seconds."
2. Slow down and eat them mindfully.
"Another thing when you’re eating lollies is to eat them mindfully," Austin said.
"Take your time and really enjoy those few lollies you’re having, rather than one in and the next one in before you’ve even finished it.
"That way you can still enjoy a few lollies but not have so many or not feel deprived. It’s not about making life restricting."
3. Have options.
"If you're going to the movies, maybe take some alternatives. Make sure you have your meal first, bring along a handful of nuts and then have a few lollies. It’s about balance," Austin said.
"Just buy lollies in smaller quantities, enjoy just a few and eat them slowly."