Candy. Small, succulent sweets, always nearby, never distant from our lives. It is conveniently located next to every cash register worldwide, dispensed from vending machines in our schools, offices, amusement parks, and all places in between. In youth, we worshipped candy, chasing it, toiling for just another piece, savoring each bite as if it were our last. When we reflect on these nostalgic moments of sunlight and Easter eggs, spooky nights and costumes, and roses and heart-shaped tin cans, we smile and reminisce. Yet, as we pass by the dull register or scrutinize the unattractive contents of the vending machine, no memories of lollipops and laughter pop into our heads. Through its ubiquity, candy has not simply faded into the background of our busy lives; it has been dressed in deprecating wrapping. Unhealthy. Childish. Processed. Teeth-rotting. Dangerous. Ultimately, this change from virtue to vice has significantly molded the dietary culture of America.
Although “candy” is the eye-catching and identifiable word to attach blame on, the true culprit to candy’s downfall is sugar. As the amount of scientific research marrying the rise in sugar intake with obesity has increased, the word “sugar” has dragged through the dirt (Westbrook 2014). No longer is sugar the choice luxury, the signal of status and wealth we used to know (Mintz, 1984). As sugar has been ushered into the 20th century, its armor of necessity has been stripped down. New research has shown that the rising costs of illness, such as cancer and type 2 diabetes, have also risen in tandem with weight gain (Westbrook 2014). Thus, as fat exits the stages as the primary antagonist, current public discussion and media coverage are now claiming that foods high in sugar content, such as candy, are to blame for rapid growth of obesity and other health risks in the United States.
However, prior to the debacle we see today, sugar—through candy—was lauded by and large among the American people. In the early 1900s, the United States was described by many as a “great candy-eating nation” (Kawash 2013). In multiple sports, athletes shamelessly proclaimed that candy liberally granted significant boosts in performance. Similarly, aviators swore that they could handle the drastic shifts in air pressure during record-breaking flights due to the effect of consuming chocolate bars prior to flight (Kawash 2013). The excitement surrounding candy in the United States was tangible; the popularity of candy skyrocketed, leading to many households generating candy from their own kitchens (Kawash 2013). Furthermore, candy found its way into the church, given as gift to the devout worshippers of sugar. Even scientists and researchers reached conclusions that candy could fuel the nation forward, ushering in an age of excellence and productivity (Kawash 2013).
Nevertheless, this golden age of candy was quite fleeting. During the mid 1900s, public outcry against candy gained momentum. Articles began questioning the healthiness of candy and its true benefits to society (Kawash 2013). What once, as Mintz (1984) details, was a key part to a soldier’s arsenal had fallen into the hands of the enemy. New outlets began publishing comics as a warning to innocent youth that candy could be used to lure them away from safety. Concurrently, candy began to lose its favor with the church as “Sunday school” moralists viewed chocolate cigars as catalysts for sinful behavior (Kawash 2013). In dentistry, candy shouldered the blame for creating cavities, even though the science behind this claim is false. Consequently, this continued lambasting instilled the general disapproval of candy consumption observed today.
Ultimately, the demonization of candy has shaped the modern American diet considerably. Although omnipresent, sugar is no longer the necessity it once was in the 1850s, nor is it the lauded condiment of the early 1900s (Mintz 1984). Rather, the incorporation of national health trends into daily news sources observed in the mid 1950s and onwards as led to public discussion on the true impact of sugar, and subsequently candies. As a result, there has been a conscious effort by consumers within the last decade to significantly reduce their intake of sweet foods and drinks (Westbrook 2014).
Childhood Obesity. Digital image. CDC. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.
Kawash, Samira. Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.
Stranger with Candy. Digital image. CDC. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.
Sunday Candy. Digital image. CDC. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.
Westbrook, Gina. “The Backlash Against Sugar: The Facts – Euromonitor International Blog.” Euromonitor International The Backlash Against Sugar The Facts Comments. Euromonitor International, 07 Nov. 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.