What happens to your body when you eat an entire Easter egg
Easter can be a time where moderation is tossed out of the window and the lure of the chocolate egg haul can be difficult to resist.
One chunk of egg can easily lead to another, and then another, and before you know it the entire thing has mysteriously disappeared.
But if you take a look at the label, most eggs recommend a serving size of around 25g of choc, while an average milk chocolate Easter egg weighs around 200g in total. That’s roughly 110 grams of sugar and 1,100 calories.
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"The sense of occasion around Easter eggs makes them a novelty, so it can be easy to convince ourselves that the normal rules of nutrition don’t apply," says Dr Daniel Atkinson, GP clinical lead at Treated.
"And while it might (and rightly should) feel like a tall order to eat an entire Easter egg in one sitting, it isn’t completely outside of the realms of possibility for someone to do so.
"Obviously everyone’s metabolism is different, and some people may have medical conditions that make them more susceptible to various symptoms than others."
But what’s actually going on inside our bodies if you polish off the whole egg? From painful wind to a sugar high, Dr Atkinson explains exactly how we could be affected...
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Eating a whole Easter egg: What happens to your body
"Chewing the chocolate causes several things to happen in the mouth. Firstly, the sugar combines with saliva to create an acid. This acid then begins to attack the tooth enamel and gums; usually within 15 minutes," explains Atkinson.
"After a time, this acid also starts to react with latent bacteria in the mouth and someone may develop a ‘furry mouth’ and halitosis (bad breath)."
Our stomachs also produce acid, to digest the food we eat. "But when we consume high amounts of sugary foods like milk chocolate, this can cause acid levels in the stomach to significantly rise," Dr Atkinson warns.
"This can then lead to feelings of pain and irritation in the tummy. Also, when acid levels in the stomach are high, this can cause acid to creep up into the lower end of the oesophagus (acid reflux or heartburn), resulting in further discomfort.
"It’s also worth noting that sugar expands when it sits in the stomach, and this can generate trapped pockets of gas, which also cause discomfort and wind."
Adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly seven cubes), children aged seven to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (six cubes), and children aged four to six should have no more than 19g a day (five cubes), according to the NHS.
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Eating a lot of chocolate in one sitting causes the brain to react in several ways.
"Initially, the sugar and various other stimulants found in chocolate are thought to connect with opioid centres in the brain, which release a chemical called dopamine," explains Dr Atkinson. "This is a hormone which induces feelings of pleasure, and dulls feelings of pain (a sugar-high).
"How long these effects last for depends on how much dopamine is released; for someone who has consumed over 100 grams of chocolate, it’s likely this pleasant feeling will begin to dissipate within an hour.
"After this, you are likely to experience a ‘sugar-crash’. This is when blood sugar, after being high, dramatically drops. This can cause feelings of mild withdrawal, irritability, lethargy and a headache."
Too much sugar also doesn't do us many favours in terms of our heart.
"After all the sugar has been taken up into the bloodstream, the brain, detecting high levels of sugar in the blood, thinks the body is under attack and releases cortisol (also known as the stress hormone) and epinephrine (fight or flight hormone)," says Dr Atkinson.
"Together, these cause the heart to beat faster and with more force; so blood pressure rises, and it’s even possible that palpitations may occur."
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"Both the natural and refined sugars in chocolate (lactose and sucrose) are broken down and taken up in the small intestine, before passing into the bloodstream," he adds.
"The job of the pancreas is to release insulin, which converts sugar in the bloodstream into energy we can use. However, the pancreas can only produce so much insulin at once, so when very high levels of blood sugar are present, it may not be able to generate enough to deal with the load.’
There can also be an effect on areas you may not even think of.
"Leftover sugar in the bloodstream which cannot be converted into energy by insulin is processed in the liver, and turned into fat. Inevitably, this increases the workload on the liver, and can make it harder for it to function and filter out other toxins from the blood," explains Dr Atkinson.
"Later, when blood sugar levels drop significantly, the endocrine system will go back to the liver to try and extract sugars from it in order to restore balance."
Interestingly, "Fluctuating hormone levels caused by excessive sugar consumption have a knock-on effect on the immune system, and its capacity to function may be temporarily lessened," Dr Atkinson points out. "This means that for a few hours, a person will be more susceptible to infection than they would be normally."
While this by no means you shouldn't enjoy your eggs this Easter, it's good to be aware of the possible knock-on health effects of having one whole.
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