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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

If candy's so dandy, what makes us fat?

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"CHILDREN need to eat better than they are eating now," says Carol O'Neil, a registered dietician and professor at Louisiana State University's Agricultural Centre. That's kind of like received wisdom today, a classic example, one might think, of the infamous "Aha! Syndrome," in which highly trained scientists at huge public expense discover what is already obvious to everybody else.

But in O'Neil's study, her great "Aha!" comes with a curious prologue -- she and her research team are claiming credit for unearthing information that indicates children who eat more candy are less prone to being fat or obese.

It is something that defies logic -- at least what passes for logic in the poor pathetic everyday common-sensical way that most of us use it -- and certainly attracts headlines (if you read it in the Free Press, you know it's true) but O'Neil's research group over the course of five years of looking at the eating habits of kids between two and 17 announced that those who regularly ate candy were 22 per cent less likely to be fat and 29 per cent less likely to be genuine porkers, or "obese" as the politically correct term is today.

So what we should we do?

Give the kids some candy to slim them down? That would seem to be what the study indicates, since the rate of obesity among children has skyrocketed while the consumption by children of candies has dropped over the years.

Well, no, according to O'Neil. Kids who eat sweets -- especially chocolate -- have "abysmal" diets, but she, despite all her research, is unable to explain what makes kids get fat. According to her own study, it doesn't seem to be candy.

Maybe, and I know this a stretch, it just might be that old-fashioned, unfundable poor pathetic everyday common-sensical logic that tells us, as it always has, that most people get fat simply because they eat too much.

Nah. Couldn't be. Could it?

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 2, 2011 J12

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