clock menu more-arrow no yes

John Oliver rips into Big Sugar's efforts to hide its role in the obesity epidemic

Americans eat 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, or around 75 pounds a year. And according to one neuroscientist, that sugar has effects on our brains that are in some ways similar to the effects of cocaine. Last night, John Oliver highlighted these and other troubling facts about America's sugar addiction in an 11-minute pre-Halloween sugar takedown.

Every day we're learning more about links between obesity and related illnesses like diabetes and even premature aging. The FDA knows sugar is a major health issue as well and has proposed adding an "added sugars" line to its new nutrition labels. But the sugar industry, as Oliver finds, appears to be trying to obfuscate those findings.

Oliver notes that independent researchers have tended to observe links between sugar and obesity, while researchers with ties to the industry tended to have inconclusive results. In addition, the American Beverage Association in a letter to the FDA argued that added sugars should be listed in grams, not teaspoons, as the latter may (inexplicably) have a "negative connotation."

Oliver's solution? Using those foul, squishy orange circus peanuts as a unit of measure. Once you know there are 5.5 circus peanuts in a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup, your sugar consumption just might take a nosedive. It's similar to an approach researchers took in a recent study, which found that expressing calories in terms of the amount of exercise they take to burn off significantly reduced soda consumption.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.