Ah, Halloween, the unofficial kickoff to what I like to call Sugar Fest.

Sure, it all starts out innocently enough when you sneak a couple pieces of the candy you’ve set aside for the Trick-Or-Treaters tonight. But that’s just the start to an out-of-control sugar binge that doesn’t end until you come up gasping for air at the end of the Christmas season.

Now if it was just packing on a few pounds that you needed to worry about, I might share my best advice about not over-indulging over the holidays and call it a day. But the health risks of sugar are much more dangerous than you might realize. In fact, weight gain could turn out to be the least of your worries.

 Sugar habit could be deadly

According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, sugar… in supposedly “safe” doses… may in fact be toxic.

Researchers found that male mice fed a diet with 25 percent extra sugar… about what you’d find in three sodas or a couple handfuls of Candy Corn… turned into lazy lumps with no libido. They stopped defending their territory and didn’t show the least bit of interest in the girl mice anymore.

But far worse than that, the female mice who were hopped up on sugar died at twice the rate of the female mice fed a normal diet. About 35 percent of the females on the high sugar diet died during the study, while only 17 percent of those in the control group kicked the bucket.

That means that if you have a full-blown sugar habit, you may already be suffering from the dangerous health risks of sugar, and not even know it. And if you continue to suck down the sugar, one day soon you could find yourself six feet under and pushing up daisies, according to the study conducted at the University of Utah.

(Speaking of the health risks of sugar, did you know that downing just one measly can of soda a day could spike your diabetes risk by 22 percent?! Read the rest of the sickening story on the NorthStar blog.)

Drowning in a sea of sugar

Now if you’re not carrying around a bunch of extra pounds, it’s easy to dismiss these findings thinking that the health risks of sugar don’t apply to you. But that would be a big mistake.

The mice in the study weren’t fat, either. And their diets were regular, healthy mouse diets besides that added sugar.  In fact, according to researchers the sugar eaters would even have passed physicals. Yet the added sugar still had major and even deadly consequences.

And it’s a lot easier to hit the 25 percent mark than you probably imagine. A stop at Starbucks for a Cafè Mocha in the morning, a soda with lunch, and a handful of Candy Corn for a snack in the afternoon and you’re already there.

Conservative estimates are that an astounding 18 to 25 percent of Americans are already getting a quarter (or more!) of their calories from added sugars. And the picture is getting worse by the day.

An easy way to get an idea of how much sugar you’re eating is to keep a food diary for a couple of weeks. Jot down everything you eat, and record the sugar content next to it. There are a number of websites that can help you figure out the approximate sugar content for both restaurant, and home-cooked meals.

Let’s face it, we’re drowning in a sea of sugar, and it’s time to grab hold of the life ring and climb out. Start by saying no thanks to the Halloween candy tonight and keep saying no through the entire holiday season and beyond, to really bypass the negative health risks of sugar.

Oh, and while you’re working on cutting down on the sugar in your diet, don’t fall into the artificial sweetener trap. Fake sugars are not a solution. In fact, diet sodas have been linked to diabetes.  And for an explanation of how the diet stuff can send your diabetes risk rocketing visit the NorthStar blog.

Now don’t get me wrong, an occasional treat’s not going to kill you, but a regular sugar habit very well could. And, at the very least, it could make life not worth living.