Skittles for days

This “Nursing Your Sweet Tooth” graphic makes a visual argument that we (Americans) are eating too much sugar by hyperbolically representing the amount of sugar the average American consumes over time with absurd physical objects (i.e. in a lifetime, this much).

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The presentation also gives information about the main sources of sugar in the American diet (focusing specifically on soda), and negative health outcomes associated with high intake. The graphic is on, so it seems likely that the intended audience is white, middle to upper class businessmen, who, interestingly, consume comparatively less sugar than lower-income black or Hispanic consumers.

The goal of the data presentation seems to be fear mongering: awaken people to the ill effects of their high dietary sugar consumption, and they will be so disgusted with their habits that they will never again touch a can of soda or a candy bar. The colors of the graphic – red, black, white and gray – and some of the typology evoke Coca-Cola, which helps drive home the point about soda’s contribution of sugar to the American diet. I think the graphic is effective in conveying a sense that the American diet is too high in added sugar, which is certainly true: 13% of calories in the American diet come from added sugars, which is significantly higher than the amount from every authoritative organization (USDA, WHO, etc). However, in terms of behavior change impact on the intended audience, the graphic seems relatively ineffective. First, the intended audience probably does not consume high levels of sugar, so it doesn’t make sense to target them as a population that needs to cut down on sugar intake. Second, some of the illustrations meant to shock the reader are over-exaggerated and nonsensical (i.e. in one lifetime we eat the amount of sugar in 1,767,900 Skittles), and end up conveying very little substantive information.

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