Doctor issues health warning about bingeing cheap Easter chocolate

A doctor has issued a warning about the gut health risks of binge eating Easter eggs. (Getty Images)
A doctor has issued a warning about the gut health risks of binge eating Easter eggs. (Getty Images) (Getty)

A doctor has issued a warning over the harmful effects of binge eating Easter eggs, explaining that overindulging in chocolate could be detrimental to our health.

Pretty much as soon as the Christmas decorations were cleared from supermarket shelves, chocolatey Easter treats started appearing.

It’s estimated that 80 to 90 million Easter eggs are wolfed down each year in the UK, and it’s not uncommon for Brits to get through at least one a day.

Studies show 43% of children will start early and eat their first egg before Easter Sunday, and almost a fifth (19%) admit that they will probably make themselves ill by overeating.

While, we might assume that chowing down on the chocolate eggs once a year may be pretty harmless, in fact, it can have some pretty significant impacts on the body, particularly if it's treats from the cheaper end of the Easter market.

What happens to your body if you binge Easter eggs?

According to Dr Claire Merrifield, GP at Selph, the issue is that typically low-cost Easter egg chocolate tends to be ultra-processed.

"This means they have lots of artificial ingredients added to them that you wouldn't typically find in a kitchen," she explains.

"In particular it [ultra-processed chocolate] will contain emulsifiers, thickening agents, gelling agents and E numbers.

"Ultra-processed chocolates have very little cocoa in, and are mainly a mix of these other ingredients," she continues.

"These extra ingredients are designed to make that chocolate delicious and easy to eat, so you eat it faster and eat more of it."

Binge eating cheap Easter chocolate has some health risks. (Getty Images)
Binge eating cheap Easter chocolate has some health risks. (Getty Images) (Getty)

However, ‘binge’ eating this kind of Easter chocolate can have a harmful effect on our bodies.

"If we constantly eat ultra-processed foods, we can eat around 500 more calories a day than if we just eat whole foods," Dr Merrifield explains.

"Eating a 100g Easter egg a day, or even half an egg, can result in weight gain due to the high sugar and fat content."

Dr Merrifield says binge eating chocolate regularly can also contribute to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol, due to the high saturated fat and sugar levels.

"For example, someone who leads a largely sedentary lifestyle will easily consume more energy than they need if they regularly eat high-processed, high-sugar foods such as this kind of cheap chocolate," she continues.

"This is dangerous because over time, the fat stores become full, and your body has to store fat in the cells of your muscles and organs such as your liver and pancreas. This is the major cause of 'insulin resistance' which over time, can lead to type 2 diabetes."

But this does of course vary from person to person.

"To get a better understanding of how our blood sugar responds to our lifestyle, trying out a Continuous Glucose Monitor can be a great idea," Dr Merrifield suggests. "This will help to understand how exercise, stress levels and the foods we eat, impact our blood glucose levels."

Dark chocolate is a better option for the gut. (Getty Images)
Dark chocolate is a better option for the gut. (Getty Images) (Getty)

How to be more gut-health conscious this Easter

Switch to dark chocolate

In small quantities, good-quality dark chocolate has health promoting properties. "It is delicious and can still satisfy a sweet tooth," Dr Merrifield explains. "Studies show it also reduces snacking and appetite. Because dark chocolate has such an intense flavour, it's not usually something you need more than a mouthful of. It is, of course, more of an acquired taste, so you could experiment by starting with a lower cocoa-mass percentage, and increase this over time."

Check the nutrition labels

Dr Merrifield says dark chocolate contains around five times the amount of fibre and half the amount of sugar compared to a standard milk chocolate bar or easter egg.

"When you’re buying Easter chocolate, it’s worth reading the nutrition labels carefully and opting for the higher fibre, lower sugar content option," she adds.

Only have chocolate after a nutritious meal

If you’ve had a nutritious, healthy savoury meal containing lots of vegetables and fibre, then a little bit of chocolate once in a while won’t do very much harm, Dr Merrifield explains.

"When an Easter egg follows an abundance of other high-fat, ultra-processed foods, it just adds to the volume of unhealthy foods you are consuming at once, which can then lead to weight gain if this happens often,” she adds.

Exercise in-between meals

Exercising and burning calories in between and after meals has so many benefits, according to Dr Merrifield.

"Not only does it burn off calories from the food you’ve eaten, but it helps you to let off steam, reduce stress and boost your metabolism," she explains.

"This does not have to be high-intensity exercise. A simple brisk walk will do the trick, just try and get out of breath."

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