Halloween has just passed us! As a kid, the best thing about Halloween was getting to eat the enormous amount of candy you got from a long, hard night of trick-or-treating. We all know how time-consuming and tiring it was to go door to door asking for treats, but it was all worthwhile because the reward was being able to stuff your face with pounds of chocolate, licorice, and other sweets. As an adult, however, it is common to feel somewhat sick and even quite nauseous after eating large amounts of sweet or fatty foods all at once. So why is it easier for us to handle more sugary foods when we’re younger than when we’re older? Scientists have found that as humans (and even animals) age, our bodies do not respond to insulin signaling as well as they used to. Metabolism in response to insulin signaling is controlled by the Foxo gene, which is expressed in the liver, pancreas, and some muscles. When we are younger, the Foxo gene can turn on and off with ease to accommodate changes in our diet. Therefore, if we ate large amounts of candy as children, our bodies responded to rapid insulin changes more effectively than they would if we ate that same amount of candy as adults. In addition, it doesn’t help that the diet of the average American consists mostly of unhealthy amounts of sugar and fat, so this can lead to complications in insulin signaling. For example, the Foxo gene can be turned on for too long and affect the metabolism of lipids, potentially leading to inflammation in the gut. Thus, it is actually possible to “eat yourself sick”! Metabolism-related health problems are very frequent in adults, especially older citizens, so scientists are trying to find treatments that would help maintain healthy metabolism in humans as we age. In the meantime though, whether you are 6 or 66, there is no harm in eating sweets in moderation!
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