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Skinny Kids Eat More Candy

candyA common assumption is that kids with obesity consume more high-caloric foods – which of course includes confectionary items like chocolate and non-chocolate sweets.

Now, a study by Constantin Gasser and colleagues from Melbourne, Australia, in a paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, present a systematic review and meta-analysis of confectionary consumption and overweight in kids.

The researchers identified 19 studies fort their systematic review, 11 of which (∼177,260 participants) were included in the meta-analysis.

Overall, odds of excess weight of kids in the highest category of sweets consumption was about 20% less than in the reference category.

This inverse association was true for both chocolate and nonchocolate confectioneries.

Furthermore, in the longitudinal studies and the randomised controlled trial included in the review, no associations were observed between confectionery consumption and overweight, obesity, or obesity-related outcomes.

Thus, based on data from well over 175,000 kids, there appears to be no relationship between sweets consumption and excess weight – if anything, the relationship is the opposite of what one may expect.

As so often, when data don’t fit the “accepted” hypothesis, the authors are also quick to point out that these findings could well be explained by reverse causality (overweight kids avoiding sweets) or underreporting by heavier kids (a polite way of saying that heavier kids may be less honest about their candy consumption).

On the other hand, it may also well be that regular (non-restrictive) sweet consumption actually does in fact make kids less vulnerable to overeating, simply by ruining their appetite (just as grandma always warned you it would – as in, “No sweets before supper!”).

Overall, the findings remind me of a previous study that failed to find any association between sugary pop consumption and body weight in Ontario and PEI kids (if anything skinny kids in PEI drank more pop than those with excess weight).

Whatever the true answer may be, these findings certainly do not support the notion that sweet or chocolate consumption is a key factor in childhood obesity.

Edmonton, AB


  1. Interesting. I would like to see a similar study that looked at processed high fat foods such as frozen pizza goods, frozen pasta entrees, processed meats, and frozen fried potato products. There has been such an expansion in this category of food products and they are very popular with children and adults alike.

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  2. Another piece in the puzzle. Very interesting.

    It’s depressing that even in the science world, the myth that fat people always misrepresent what they eat persists. Despite studies showing *everyone* underestimates how much they eat, unless given a way to measure/weigh their portions, older studies that only looked at fat people persist.

    (When troglitizone was first put on the market, everyone cheered at the new med for T2DM that was supposed to work on insulin resistance, convinced it would make people lose weight. Some group did a study and when everyone gained weight, they blamed it on the participants, because “everyone knows” fat people lie about what they eat. We now know that weight gain is among the many side effects of glitizones.)

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  3. Hi Dr. Arya –

    Do you think the most plausible answer is that some people naturally struggle with their weight while others don’t?

    The ones with a healthy metabolism can eat food more liberally while the ones who are overweight tend to be more cautious but are still over eating.

    I have four children – all raised the same way and one as they became a teen started gaining weight. Yes, they ate more and were hungrier – but I’m not sure what set it off. Now they are a teen ager and slightly overweight –

    Meanwhile – my other 3 are rail thin.

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    • Absolutely, some kids (and adults) can seem to eat all they want, never exercise and remain skinny, others gain weight by consuming no more than anyone else – life is unfair.

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