Random AsidesSkepticism

Throwback Bad Chart Thursday: Sugar Could Make Us Immortal

Originally published on March 20, 2014.

I was casually strolling about the Internet the other day, enjoying a hot fudge doughnut M&M sundae, as I am wont to do, when I came across some SHOCKING news about US sugar consumption: By 2606, the US Diet will be 100 Percent Sugar.

My first thought was that this would be only a 5 percent increase in my current diet. My second thought was that my sundae needed a little more hot fudge. The perfect lunch dessert requires a delicate balance of elements.

But I digress. As you can see from the charts provided in the article, the author derived his prediction from first looking at the increasing trend in sugar consumption, in pounds per year per person, from 1822 to 2005:

Sugar consumption

He then plotted the outcome if this trend continued, until he reached the 100 percent mark (based on average calorie consumption of 2,250 kcal/day) in 2606:

Sugar consumption trend

Seems legit. Obviously, many factors come into play here when talking about the future, such as changes in calorie intake (especially when we become robot hybrids), availability of sugar, doomsday predictions that may come true in the next few hundred years, and how our diets may change when candy inevitably gains sentience. But as a rough look at the trend, sure.

The real question, of course, is whether this is necessarily a bad thing. I know, it seems obvious–that much sugar just can’t possibly be good for you. But as skeptics, we should always question our assumptions.

Let’s take a look at this in context, such as life expectancy. During this same period, in fact, our life expectancy has also continued to increase, as I demonstrate below.

Sugar equals longer life

Clearly, the more sugar we eat, the longer we live. I mean, I know correlation doesn’t equal causation, but how can we ignore how closely these trends track each other over time?

In fact, long-term projections show that sugar may, for all practical purposes, be the key to immortality.

Sugar equals immortality

Again, this does not take into account myriad factors, such as overpopulation problems as we live longer and how the resulting cannibalism may affect our sugar intake or whether the aforementioned candy sentience will make it far more difficult for us to eat anything resembling our pet Kit Kats (or dare I say our nougat-filled partners, daughters, sons). I’m really not suggesting we all go out and start eating sugar by the spoonful because . . . gross.

What I am saying is that data are not always what they seem, and we should be cautious when looking at the future (or, for that matter, the past). Sugar could kill us all or it could make us immortal. In moderation, it probably just adds a little sweetness to our relatively short lives. Oh, and tooth decay, if you believe the Big Dental propaganda machine. But that’s a subject for another post.

Melanie Mallon

Melanie is a freelance editor and writer living in a small town outside Minneapolis with her husband, two kids, dog, and two cats. When not making fun of bad charts or running the Uncensorship Project, she spends her time wrangling commas, making colon jokes, and putting out random dumpster fires. You can find her on Twitter as @MelMall, on Facebook, and on Instagram.

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