National Candy Month: Revealing the Sweet Deception

National Candy Month has been celebrated in the United States every June since its establishment by the National Confectioners Association (NCA) in 1974. The NCA is a trade organization that has contributed to over $42 billion in retail sales by distributing candies, chocolates, and confectionery products. As a result, the United States boasts the largest overall retail volume of candy. According to the NCA, the month of June is dedicated to celebrating the value that candy adds to the culture, society, economy, and well-being of Americans. 

It is during June that candy companies utilize advertisements, special offers, and events to successfully normalize and glorify sugar consumption. Normalizing sugar consumption can have several harmful consequences for both individuals and society as a whole. It is this sweet deception together with other socio-economic and behavioral factors that have contributed to the doubling of obesity rates in adults and in children to more than triple since the 1980s. The economic impact of obesity, which includes healthcare costs amounting to $150 billion annually and significant losses in productivity, far exceeds the retail sales of candy. The media often promotes sugar in a positive light, promoting sugar as desirable, flavorful, and exciting. Excessive praise for sugar is one of the root causes behind obesity, heightened vulnerability to non-communicable diseases (NCDS), dental issues, heart conditions, sugar addictions, mental health disorders, childhood malnutrition, detrimental effects on beneficial gut bacteria, and numerous other adverse consequences. During National Candy Month, sugar is often promoted as a sweet and balanced part of a healthy diet. But candy is not so sweet when considering the number of people suffering from NCDs caused by excess sugar consumption. NCDs are not transmitted from one person to another, but instead, individuals develop these diseases due to unhealthy lifestyles, poor dietary choices, and unfavorable socioeconomic and environmental factors. Obesity is one of the most common NCDs, affecting over 70 million adults and 14.7 million children in the United States alone. This equates to 39.6% of the entire American population. Obesity stats in South Africa are also concerning, since roughly 31% of men and 68% of women in the country are obese. Obesity makes individuals more susceptible to acquiring Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Currently, approximately 537 million adults (20-79 years) are living with diabetes worldwide. Around 37 million Americans have diabetes, with 90-95% of them having Type 2 diabetes. Three in four adults with diabetes live in low- and middle-income countries. Diabetes prevalence in South Africa has doubled in the last decade, with more than 4.2 million people now suffering from the condition: that’s one in nine adults, however, around 45% of these people are undiagnosed, according to the latest figures from the International Diabetes Federation. Moreover, people who consume a diet high in sugar are prone to developing CVDs which are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives each year. 

Although sugar provides short-term energy to the body, its long-term consumption could lead to the NCDs discussed earlier. The process of how sugar causes NCDs is explained in the following steps. First, sugar is broken down in the stomach and enters the small intestine. Then, the small intestine releases enzymes that break down the sugar, allowing it to enter the bloodstream. In response, the pancreas produces insulin to facilitate the absorption of sugar from the blood, which is then used for energy and storage.

Over time, sugar can have detrimental effects on an individual’s health. The more sugar consumed; the more insulin is released and increased insulin levels reduce the body’s response to insulin. Eventually, decreased responsiveness to insulin results in higher blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar levels can cause different NCDs. Persistently high levels of sugar and insulin in the blood can result in insulin resistance, a precursor to Type 2 diabetes. Excess sugar left in the blood can be converted into fat cells leading to obesity. In addition, the liver can store excess fat cells, leading to fatty liver disease. Moreover, prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels, leading to cardiovascular diseases. 

Despite the risks of NCDs associated with overconsumption of sugar and while not officially recognized as a diagnosable disorder, some researchers suggest that certain individuals may exhibit addictive-like behaviors in relation to sugar.  Sugar is a highly addictive substance, and many companies capitalize on this fact to encourage and perpetuate sugar addictions. Approximately 75% of Americans are addicted to sugar. From 2005 to 2009, 77% of all calories purchased in the United States contained caloric sweeteners. Many individuals can manage their sugar addiction by implementing strategies such as reducing or eliminating sugar intake, adopting a nutritious eating plan, reading food labels, seeking professional support, and exploring healthy alternatives to satisfy cravings. 

Reducing sugar consumption worldwide requires a multifaceted approach involving various stakeholders, including governments, food manufacturers, healthcare professionals, educators, and individuals. The Noakes Foundation (TNF) works closely with its partners at the Nutrition Network (NN) and Eat Better South Africa (EBSA) to provide education and awareness about healthier alternative diets accessible to people in South Africa. TNF uses the field research they conducted to promote a low carb high fat (LCHF) diet to people in South Africa to combat metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity. Online accredited educational platforms such as the NN promotes the understanding of evidence-based nutritional principles through online courses, blog posts, collaborative platforms and other resources shared among professionals in the field. EBSA collaborates with local governments, communities, schools, and healthcare facilities to make nutritional food options more accessible and affordable to people in South Africa. With the assistance of these three organizations, individuals can enhance their understanding of healthy eating and apply this knowledge to overcome misleading information regarding nutrition.  


About the Author – Ashley Shechtman

Ashley is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Health Science at the University of Florida. She is currently an intern at the Noakes Foundation (TNF) where she is assisting in research on nutritional approaches to preventing non-communicable diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes. Ashley also actively contributes to the initiatives of the Inani StartWell Foundation, whose mission is to raise awareness about nutrition and provide healthy alternatives to under-resourced communities in South Africa. Ashley aspires to become a Pediatric Physical Therapist. She is driven by her desire to enlighten future patients about the transformative potential of nutrition and manipulation of the body in healing injuries and ailments. With the guidance of Eat Better South Africa (EBSA), Noakes Foundation (TNF), and Nutrition Network (NN), Ashley will continue to promote nutrition to communities in South Africa and leverage the knowledge she gains to contribute to a healthier future in America.


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‌‌2. Global Leaders in Online Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition Training – Nutrition Network. (2023, May 4). Nutrition Network.

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4. Krans, B. (2016, October 24). America’s Deadly Sugar Addiction Has Reached Epidemic Levels. Healthline; Healthline Media.

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