October 18, 2017
New Jersey – Halloween is coming. And the scariest stuff is as close as your fridge or pantry.
It’s that time of year again when, unless you live in an isolated cabin in the woods (or possibly more so if you do), stocking up on “treats” is practically obligatory.
Now, maybe you’re not in the habit of checking the ingredients in the goodies you hand out to your neighborhood goblins. But remember, your contributions can have an impact on how healthy your community is. (And don’t overlook that you and your family may well end up eating the leftovers yourselves.)
So it’s a good idea to turn more than a passing glance toward the labels on the Halloween treats you’re giving out. A lot of them contain some scary ingredients you will likely want to avoid – even if they’re going to be gobbled up by witches and ghosts!
Here are some spooky “Tricks” lurking in those treats:
Trick #1: High fructose corn syrup or HFCS, the laboratory-created sweetener that took first-place honors in the Citizens for Health Read Your Labels campaign – and for good reason. The scientific rap sheet on HFCS is getting longer all time.
High fructose consumption in general, and consumption of HFCS in particular, recently have been linked to a higher risk for heart disease and diabetes – especially in kids. The additive has also been identified in studies as contributing to weight gain and obesity, hampered brain function and increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
Trick #2: Partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), a.k.a. trans fats. Unbelievably, some cakes and candies still contain this ingredient, even though the FDA promised it would be phased out by June of next year. All health professionals and experts – yes, all of them – agree that PHO poses a major cardiovascular threat.
Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention admit that PHOs are responsible for causing more than 20,000 heart attacks and roughly 7,000 deaths a year in the U.S. alone.
Trick #3: Artificial colors, which are widely used in candies, are often derived from coal tar and petroleum extracts. These additives are acknowledged to cause hyperactivity in some children, which is why since 2010 European regulatory officials have required that products containing these unnatural coloring agents contain a warning label saying that consumption “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children”.
Trick #4: Aspartame can be in anything from beverages to yogurt, but it’s also found in some common Halloween treats like gum and hard candies. And in a bizarre way, that’s kind of fitting, as it’s actually a brain-eating mini-monster in disguise, one of a class of chemicals known as “excitotoxins” that are actually capable of exciting certain brain cells to death.
That little side effect is especially true for kids whose blood-brain barrier isn’t fully developed. Since aspartame’s shady approval in 1981 by a political appointee at the Food and Drug Administration, thousands upon thousands of health-related complaints about it have been lodged with the agency ranging from migraines to dizziness to vision problems. And that that’s really scary!
No one, of course, expects candy to be health food. But some of the treats stacked up in anticipation of Halloween are far less healthy than others. And remember, the ingredient list, not the Nutrition Facts Label, is your only guide to what they really contain.