As a young dentist and father, every year I would joke with my kids that Halloween was the one American holiday that would "help me pay for their college someday."
Somewhat confused, my young daughter would ask "How daddy?" and I would go into my speech about the sticky, sugary, 'trick or treat' candy that causes your teeth to rot and then makes more business for the dentist to fix. I would show her pictures of decay, and for years I had a poster of a Halloween witch holding a big basket filled with candy in front of her face, and smiling broadly -- displaying the most hideous rotten teeth. The poster supplied by the American Dental Association was enough to give anyone a nightmare, both children scared of the creepy woman, and adults thinking about how much money it would cost to fix a mouth that bad.
Now years later, all three of my children are currently in college, and while "Halloween business" was not enough to pay for it (mostly due to soaring tuition costs), many consumer advocacy groups have declared that we are "drowning in sugar." In the last 20 years, the amount of sugar each person consumes yearly in the United States has soared from 26 pounds per person to more than 135 lbs. per person. The average teenage male now consumes more than 34 teaspoons of sugar per day. Most of that sugar comes from man-made or "refined sugars," which are from cane sugar, beet sugar, corn syrup and corn sugar especially in the consumption of soft drinks.
Since 1983 (the year before my oldest daughter was born) sugar consumption has been steadily increasing every year by an average of 28 percent, fueling an epidemic of obesity, dental disease, diabetes and other health problems.
While research has shown sugar addiction to be more powerful than addiction to cigarettes, heroin or cocaine, this Halloween is a good time to reduce your addiction to sugar, and protect your health and the health of your children and loved ones.
Here are 10 sensible steps to begin taking during this "trick or treat" season_
1. Drink lots of water.Besides replacing soda, water helps clear toxins like sugar from the body.
2. Avoid juices.Even 100 percent fruit juices are essentially sugar and water in disguise.
3. It's apple season, so have plenty of low-sugar and fiber-rich fresh fruit around.Increased fiber helps regulate sugar.
4. Avoid artificial sweeteners.Try a natural, herbal, low-calorie sweetener like stevia in your morning coffee.
5. Increase your consumption of healthy proteins and healthy fats (omega-3's).These regulate blood sugar levels.
6. If you crave something sweet, have it AFTER a meal.It does not cause as strong a gyration with blood sugar.
7. Limit alcohol. Alcohol is made from sugar and acts like sugar in the body.
8. Eliminate the empty white stuff: White flour, white rice and white potatoes. These act like sugar acts on the body.
9. Learn to like local natural honey as a sweetener.It's high in natural sugar but with a lot of health benefits.
10. Read the labels. You will be amazed at how much sugar is hidden in products you would never expect.
Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned aesthetic dentist and pioneer in the emerging field of rejuvenation dentistry, which improves patients' overall health and appearance by integrating total wellness with cutting edge oral care and restorative procedures. In addition to his private practice, research, and work as a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU College of Dentistry, he is an internationally sought after speaker, author and expert who has been featured widely in print and broadcast media. For more information, go to