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Boom and bust

Chhavi Sachdev
Podcaster and Independent Radio Producer/Reporter
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piqer: Chhavi Sachdev
Thursday, 13 December 2018

A measured look at sugar

As Christmas approaches, a lot of us will be gearing up to consume -- or say no to --  even more sweets than normal, at Christmas parties and office celebrations. By now, we've all heard that it's toxic, poison, even -- but does it deserve the vilification? What does sugar really do to you? In this episode of Freakonomics Radio, we look at the behavioural economics in the whole sugar binge -- how it became so ubiquitous after being a scant luxury that few could afford a handful of times a year, and what happens when we have too much sugar (I feel sorry for the rodents who became seriously addicted.)The truth is, science says sugar should be a treat, consumed once in a while in moderation. But it's hidden in practically every item we touch in a supermarket, from condiments to breads, to, of course, candy. Why, then, do we binge on it? Is it addictive? Is there really a sweet spot to how much you can safely consume? 

We hear from an doctor who says, yes, sugar is as addictive as heroin, morphine, alcohol and tobacco(!) and that sugar harms the liver exactly like alcohol does (as well as the explanation why). And we hear from the former head of the FDA about why it isn't regulated the same way heroin or alcohol are. It's also really interesting to find out the four criteria that are used to identify which substances count as addictive and need to be regulated; one factor is whether it harms society and other people if someone consumes it. It turns out sugar does meet all the criteria, but ... there are reasons it isn't taxed or regulated -- most of them economic but some also psychological. Sugar is fun, it's tasty, it's yummy!So, can we turn off our cravings? There are drugs that block the effects of heroin and alcohol, and we hear that they are good, effective treatments for addiction. Should we try that with sugar? It turns out that it's not such a good idea. People have actually committed suicide when they stop being able to enjoy the sweet side of life.

A measured look at sugar
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