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New Study Finds Candy Consumption Not Associated with Negative Health Outcomes


April 20, 2009

Washington, DC. — According to a recent study presented at the 2009 Experimental Biology conference in New Orleans, candy consumption is not associated with chronic negative health outcomes, such as overweight and obesity, in children and adults.  In fact, children who consumed candy had lower body weights than children who reported eating no candy.  

Using data obtained from a long term U.S. government nutrition survey, Nutrition Impact, LLC, conducted this analysis, examining the association between candy consumption and physiological parameters (weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference and triceps skinfold measures) in children (2-18 years) and adults (19 + years).  The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2004, is the latest data from an ongoing series of assessments of the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the U.S. NHANES is a major program of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Our analysis found that, in children, candy consumers had statistically significant lower body weight, BMI, waist circumference and triceps skin fold measures as compared to non-consumers. In adults, candy consumers had statistically significant lower waist circumference as compared to non-consumers and candy consumption was not associated with increased body weight or BMI,” explained Dr. Victor Fulgoni, senior vice president for Nutrition Impact, LLC.  This analysis was funded by the National Confectioners Association (NCA).

NHANES is recognized as an authoritative source for dietary patterns and health outcomes data.  It is important to note that this analysis of survey data demonstrates associations between candy consumption and health outcomes and not cause and effect.  

The findings of this analysis correlate with the American Dietetic Association’s position(1) that “The total diet or overall pattern of food eaten is the most important focus of a healthful eating style. All foods can fit within this pattern, if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity.”  

Dr. Susan Finn, registered dietitian, commented, “These research findings demonstrate that there is room in a healthy diet for a moderate amount of candy. The important message is energy balance: if you eat more calories than you expend in activity, the result is weight gain. Although that doesn’t mean you should substitute candy for nutrient-rich foods, it is okay to enjoy chocolate and confections in moderation. Candy is a small treat that can put a big smile on your face.”

Calories derived from candy are classified as “discretionary calories,” defined in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans(2) as “the remaining amount of calories in each calorie level after nutrient-dense foods in each food group are selected.”  For example, 267 calories in a 2000 calorie diet are allocated as “discretionary calories,” but the vast majority of calories should come from nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy.

According to Alison Bodor, vice president of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for NCA, “The National Confectioners Association is not suggesting that candy is a health food.  We firmly believe that candy and chocolate are treats, snacks or desserts.” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines a serving of candy as 40 grams, roughly equivalent to the size of a typical candy bar.  The candy industry offers many smaller size packages as well.

“The results of this NHANES analysis align with common sense and what we think most consumers already understand—that confectionery consumed in moderation can add enjoyment to an active, healthy lifestyle,” added Bodor.

About the National Confectioners Association (NCA): Founded in 1884 in Chicago by representatives of 69 confectionery manufacturing firms, the National Confectioners Association is one of the oldest, most respected trade associations in the world. Today NCA has more than 600 members and is the major association representing the entire confectionery industry, offering education and leadership in manufacturing, technical research, public relations, retailing practices, government relations and statistical analyses. NCA fosters industry growth by advancing and promoting the interests of the confectionery industry, its customers and its consumers.


(1) American Dietetic Association Position Paper, “Total Diet Approach to Communicating Food and Nutrition Information.”
(2) 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans