This section is from the "The Young Mother. Management of Children in Regard to Health" book, by William A. Alcott. Also available from Amazon: The Young Mother
By confectionary we here mean the substances usually sold at those shops in our cities distinguished by the general name of confectionaries, and which consist either wholly of sugar, or of sugar and some other substances combined.
As to the use of a moderate quantity of pure sugar at our meals, whether it is procured at a confectioner's shop or elsewhere, I do not know that there is any strong objection to it; though I believe that it cannot be regarded as indispensable to health—for were that the fact, it seems to me to imply something short of infinite wisdom in the creation of articles destined for our sustenance. But I have spoken on this subject elsewhere.
A part, however, of the contents of the confectionary shop are actually poisonous. I refer to those things which are either frosted, as it is called, or colored. The substances applied to the sugar for this purpose are usually some mineral or vegetable poison; although the fact of its being a poison may not always be known to the manufacturer. The most unhappy consequences have occasionally followed the use of confectionary, when poisoned in this manner. A family of four persons, in New York, were made sick in this way in March of year before last, and some of them came very near losing their lives. The "frosting" which caused the mischief was pronounced by eminent chemists to be one fifth rank poison.[Footnote: It is to be remembered that those who eat confectionary so slightly poisoned that it does not make them sick at once, may nevertheless be as much injured in their constitutions as they who are poisoned outright. In the latter case, the poison is in part thrown out of the body; in the former, it remains in it much longer—and therefore more surely, though more slowly, accomplishes the work of destruction.] The coloring substances used are sometimes poisonous, as well as the frosting.
Some of the articles sold at these shops consist of sugar mixed with paste. Others are called sweetmeats; that is, fruits, or rinds of fruits, preserved in sugar. All these substances, I believe, without exception, are injurious.
The great evils of confectionary yet remain to be mentioned. These are of three kinds, physical, mental and moral.
Some of the physical evils have, it is true, just been mentioned; but there is another evil of still greater magnitude. Young people who eat confectionary, commonly eat it between meals. This produces mischief in two ways. First, it keeps the stomach at work when it ought to rest; for this, like every other muscular organ, requires its seasons of repose. Secondly, it destroys gradually the appetite; so that when the regular meal arrives, the accustomed keenness of appetite does not come with it. And the consequence is, not so much that we do not eat enough, as that we are fastidious, and eat a little of this, then a little of that; and usually select the worst things. We are not hungry enough to make a meal of a single article of plain food. And this evil goes on increasing, as long as we have access to the confectionary shop. These statements describe the case of thousands of pupils, of both sexes, at our schools and seminaries.
The intellectual evil resulting from the use of confectionary consists in the fondness for excitement which is produced. You will seldom find a person who depends daily and almost hourly on some excitement to his appetite and stomach, and is not satisfied with plain food, who will content himself to study without unnatural excitements of the mind. Duty to himself or to others will not move him. He must have before him the hope of reward, or the fear of punishment. He must be moved by emulation or ambition, or some other questionable or wicked motive or passion.
But the moral results, to the young, of using confectionary, are still more dreadful. I do not here refer to the danger of meeting with bad company at the shops themselves, or of going from these places of pollution directly to the grog-shop, the gambling-house, or the brothel; though there is danger enough, even here. But I allude to the tendency which a habit of not resting satisfied with plain food, but of depending on exciting things, has, to make us dissatisfied with plain moral enjoyments—the society of friends, and the quiet discharge of our duty to God and our neighbor. Just in proportion as we gratify our propensity for excitement at the confectioner's shop, just in the same proportion do we expose ourselves to the, danger of yielding to temptation, should other gratifications present themselves. The young of both sexes who are in the use of confectionary, are on the high road to gluttony, drunkenness, or debauchery; perhaps to all three. I do not say they will certainly arrive there, for circumstances not quite miraculous may pluck them as "brands from the burning;" but I do not hesitate to say that such is the inevitable tendency; and I call on every mother and teacher who reads this section, to beware of confectionaries, and see, if possible, that the young never set foot in them. They are a road through which thousands pass to the chamber of death—death to the immortal spirit, as well as to the body, its vehicle.
More might be added—for this is an important subject—but I trust I have said enough. Those who have read and believe what I have written, if they remain wholly unaffected and unmoved, would not be roused to effort were anything to be added.