Could Willy Wonka have been right after all? Is candy really dandy?

According to a new study published in the Nutrition Journal, the frequent consumption of candy is not associated with health problems like heart disease or obesity. Using data collected from 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, the researchers categorized adult candy-eating habits as either infrequent, moderate, or frequent, and then compared that to their weight, body-fat percentage, blood pressure, insulin levels, and cholesterol count.

They found that the frequency of candy consumption was not, in fact, "associated with the risk of obesity, overweight/obesity, elevated waist circumference, elevated skinfold thickness, blood pressure, low density lipoprotein (LDL) or high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, or insulin resistance."

Indeed, the researchers write, frequent candy intake was actually associated with higher energy intakes and lower intakes of protein and cholesterol.

But don't break out the 10-lb. bag of M&Ms quite yet. The study that sounds a little too good to be true was paid for by the National Confectioners Association (NCA), a trade group that represents the interests of the candy, chocolate, and gum industry, says Popular Science, which questioned the legitimacy of the results given this fact.

Further, this study completely contradicts previous studies like one in 2010 by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that found high-calorie snacks, including candy, are a major cause of childhood obesity, or one published in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), which found that putting candy at the supermarket cash register was a risk factor for obesity and chronic diseases.

The Nutrition study does say that the results should not be taken to mean that candy consumption does not cause obesity or heart problems, and that the lack of cardiovascular risk factors could be because of reduced candy intake among overweight people trying to lose weight. The authors also added that the study was based on how frequently candy was consumed, and not on the actual amounts of candy consumed, a factor which could also change the results.

However, an NCA press release says, "These results suggest that most people are treating themselves to candy without increasing their risk of obesity or cardiovascular disease. More research is needed to further understand the role candy plays in life and the best tips for candy lovers to include their favorite treats as a part of a happy healthy lifestyle."

It's up to you who you want to believe, Popular Science adds - the NEJM or the NCA.

Sources: Murphy MM, Barraj LM, Bi X, Stettler N. Body Weight Status and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Adults by Frequency of Candy Consumption. Nutrition Journal. 2013.

Cohen DA, Babey SH. Candy at the Cash Register - A Risk Factor for Obesity and Chronic Disease. NEJM. 2012.