Freakonomics asks a dozen smart people for their best ideas. Get ready for a fat tax, a sugar ban, and a calorie-chomping tapeworm.
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m be a dot com. Flash freak own Alex Steve Limit is my free economics friend and co author. He stands about five foot, eleven ways, a hundred and sixty pounds, so he does not have a weak problem, but he has been thinking about our collective weight problem, but not thinking about it. in a way that most people think about it. The fact not even close what we ve learned over time, which is one of the most surprising things about abuse it is that the He has a very strong homeostasis device, which makes it both hard to wait and hard to lose weight, so the calculation I did with simple one. I probably twenty eight hundred galleries
and I like eating so let's say I decided I wanted to go up to thirty three hundred dollars a day and extra five guys at eight. I want to do that for the rest of my life. Now you might think. Well, if you did that that I would. My weight would essentially go to infinity that that extra five hundred cow was pile up, dial up and ended rough real time people you said every. Maybe three thousand five hundred calories turns into a pound until you would think know my god you're going to gain a pound a week for those who live it turns out. I wouldn't let because of the way the body works out, only gain for So if I started this little younger, when I was twenty, then I could have basically, instead of being a hundred sixty pounds from eleven had been two hundred pounds. My whole life and I could have had an extra eight point. Seven, million calories over the course of my life. Now the experts agree that if I wait two hundred pounds, a sort of a hundred and sixty at my hide, it might cost me a year
to have life expectancy and when you do all the multiplication in the value of life calculations, it turns out that roughly every extra thousand calories I consume short in my life enough that I would pay about a dollar and that's the price. So it turns out that every extra scope that I drink he is about fifteen cents in. Today I am for economics, radio things you do not know about obesity and what to do about it, and it happened from W and Y see an ATM american public media. This is for economics, radio podcast that explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host Stevens Abner,
on today's episode. We are talking about obesity. Now obesity is a problem that is at once the terrible and wonderful wonderful because it represents our ability to produce delicious, safe, affordable food for billions of people, something that not so long ago. Doomsayers were saying was not possible and it's a terrible problem, because well collectively we too much of that delicious, affordable food, much of which, in fact is not at all good force. Chris economists who studies obesity in childhood, nutrition at Tufts University says it. then one in three children and adolescents, in the: U S, overweight or obese, the obesity rates for children have tripled in the United States over the last forty years and there are dramatic hell, societal consequences that result from that.
some are media in summer long term, particularly because child, This leads to Adele obesity and persuade me one step further that adult obesity in addition to being uncomfortable- and you know an appealing for a lot of people for lotta reasons, talk about the actual dangers of in terms of morbidity, mortality, social costs on shore, I'm sixty six percent of adults, in the? U S are overweight, no bees and the health consequences are ignored, so they include the development of type today A baby's orthopedic problems, cardiovascular disease, a shorter life span lost. Productivity There are serious social consequences, sweaters isolation, mental health is used that develop as a
Elsa, first minor and then major depression. So it really is catastrophic when you put it together, catastrophic and expensive to obesity. Related health care makes up roughly twenty percent of our total healthcare spending, which in turn represents nearly twenty percent of our gdp. So they're all kinds of reasons, financial political moral reasons to address will be sitting there. All kinds of ideas to today. We want to bring some different ideas. Steve Levitt, whom you heard from earlier, tends to have a lot of different ideas:
as an economist, the universe of Chicago. He also started a consulting firm called the greatest good, which takes on regular consulting business, but also, once in awhile, gets hired by a philanthropist were foundation to tackle a problem like obesity. That's what happened recently. The Robert would Johnson Foundation whose mission is to quote improve the health and health care of all. Americans. Ask the greatest good to put together a one day, think tank on childhood obesity. So we gathered up about a dozen people, nutrition experts and academic, some other interested folks for a brainstorm. We should say here that the viewpoints that you'll hear do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Robert would Johnson Foundation. I'm very story: the school public health of the universe in Minnesota What kind of man the psychologist? I know
essentially nothing about this lit up? The computer CO founder and non profit organisations and younger called nutrition Science Initiative and Jim Marxism senior Vice President Foundation, stone coordinator and harvest for public health Jeff, Canada, Harlem Children, Jones Grammar, Laney, CO, founder of smiled trained and I'm Kelly Baronial from Yale, and I run a place called the rug centre for food policy and obesity mining. economists. I met the freedoms of nutrition and tariffs. University, I'm here Gulliver on the political scientist of universities, Chicago, I guess I'm here as a sceptic, I'm buildings until June. I wish to record that vision, nutrition, fiscal. I didn t see the sums for disease control. Now, I'm an active citizen. David lesson from Harvard Behavioral Economist, my specialty regulation and behavior change to save. We met down in Princeton at the foundations headquarters. I moderated the disks
The only rule was that no idea was off limits, no matter how absurd politically incorrect or repugnant it might seem. This podcast is meant to give you a seat at the table. We begin with the question that Steve Levitt asked the group. The answer, as you'll hear, shows just how, in the obesity problems is there anyone in this room, who think said that, under the each one. We have a problem with nutrition for babies, problem, and I go one step further Steve, I would say in utero we assume pretty good evidence. they suggest that maternal diabetes and aren't even mean Frank diabetes. I mean hyper glucose hyper, insolent, Nemea during the critical period. A development of fetal pancreas an enormous role in obesity because it was only like, I think,
a six week window where the fetus tankers is developing. At that pancreas develops in a high glucose environment, Ursula glucose environment. It develops more beta south. All of a sudden, a child is now borne more power yes, but they're not born insulin resistance, but now there more predisposed insulin resistance and then when you look at you know I do this address my wife. As in the grocery store I get so angry. I take photos of baby food. I turn it over and unlike interesting that big formula, number one ingredient number one. I think US corns Europe ingredient number two modified cornstarch ingredient. Three hydra lies in its like will Gee that's interesting. that was Peter a tier. He used to be a surgeon. Now he runs a nonprofit called. The nutrition science initiative is hypothesis. Is that of all the contributing factors to obesity? By far the greatest may be the prevalence of sugar
in the modern diet, sugar in all its many many forms. Now some of these sugars are disguised alot of carbohydrates like bread and pasta, for instance, which most people don't think of sugar in all and some couldn't be anymore, obviously soda. Over the past few decades, the average american kid doubled his intake of soda overall he eats and drinks about a hundred eighty more calories a day which is at least a ten percent increase. Although lately the data seemed to show that increases plateaus. Most of these extra calories come from snacks. So say what you will about, how kids are less active today than they used to be a screen? Time has risen. The fact is that calories DR wait, especially the calories it dont have any nutrition attached to them, which, by the way, tend to be the cheapest cowards, so give
all the empty extra calories the kids are consuming. The public should be to surprise that a third of them obese, I'm curious whether anybody knows about children awareness of obesity as an issue among themselves and how recent that isn't? How? What the magnitude is? no little that we just had a paper accepted its impress. It was national survey of children asking them. What do you think about We see how aware you about it. What do you think happens the child, is overweight or obese, and it's all about not fund to be a heavy kid stigmatized. Isolation bullying other things, it expect pretty high awareness when you stratified, kids, hisself classify as being overweight. They worry about anything more. Not being overweight, but their grades getting into. Accident. Not having money over. This place is a kids even little degree of overweight or a body that doesnt work
everybody else's are the subject of incredible teasing and bullying. The heartbreaking stories are ass. Just amazing so I think Steve's right. I think all of these things are significant cost decision. into the individuals as well, and I would proceed as to wines that cross than in childhood. The social costs are way higher than that medical cause than that changes over time, that, of course, would go in the opposite direction that they would be less significant childhood and greater as it is age grows older, so these lines would cross. that doesn't mean that the stigma not important new adults who wage penalties, marriage, penalties, all sorts of things are very significant people, but as child its especially on plant twisted out, which is, I think kids are very, very aware of weight. please city and there's all that social stigma. But what are I think they don't perhaps had the sophistication
Another thirty five year old at all is, understanding the mapping from what they are eating too, how over the next four five years, are gonna, become obese and how their exercise also mentioned that, and so, even if they think obesity, Terrible, I don't wanna be heavy. My peers, bees are getting teased hastily understand how millions of actions translate into that outcome, and that is subtle and I think it's particularly problematic because of the delay between the action in the outcome. We know that organisms, learn humans. Animals then really well, when you do something and instantly you get feedback that clear and learn terribly. When lots of animal studies where, if the feedback Four minutes later. The animal never learns conclusion that question, because one thing that you said it struck me that
children need to be active, uncertainties going but think that children need to be able to see the consequences of their behaviors and in the way, if I view about that, I think, are the difficulty with obesity is sensitive Does that thirty five year old, so do a very good job relative to serve answer decision making frameworks. I'm wondering that even a reasonable standard to hold up with respected kids to their own capacity, for making decisions that we might wonder. I completely endorse it. it's hard to thirty five year old adult and it's worse. For the eight year old kid, I just want to reinforce David's, implied point I saw the meeting in terms of behavioral change as how do you change parental behaviour? Changing child me forget it. Parental behaviour is great. Hundred and said something to silver different to think about. I just finished and a steady anew emigrants.
There are many them arrive here from an environment where food is limited. virtual lies- there is no snacking and you watch navigate this so be suggested environment in a short amount of time, and you see a beastly manifest very quickly and the one of the underlying things that were looking, I carefully is time trader, time use, which leads to paviers that Causa be city and so ass. We think about this problem, not an expert on I'm tradeoff spied there's a whole Germany were studying it, and I think it's important because leads people directly to the foods that Edwards riding in the over consumption that results. So I don't know after dinner, I think it's extremely important it to watch it unfold in a short amount of time. fascinating, it's basically what many of us experienced over decades, That was in order of appearance. Chris economists, Kelly Brow,
David Labs and Eric Oliver and Daniel Economy, Jeffrey Canada runs a nonprofit in New York City called Harlem Children zone. In the beginning, it focused on education and drug prevention, but over Time Canada says obesity became a big deal. You know it started our being a small aspect of our work until we realised that about forty percent of our kids are obese. It is a huge happen. in our community and so Lauer preparing kids for college. Are we want these kids to become doctors, members of society. You know one of the things that happened in a place like home is that it's almost like a black hole of taxes, all of the tax dollars, come in we're paying for prisons in jails and reform, schools in emergency visits to the hospital in a special legit.
Services in some few folk are able to work and work long periods of time that you don't get folks actually contributing back to society. If my kids, who are going to college, which they will all end up getting sick in the thirties and Fortys any health care costs simply sky rocket. again. We have not solved that equation, so we thought that it was what part of our job to not just get these kids in college, but to get them in college healthy. So they can mountain have full productive lives and we can, really make sure that they can contribute to society. Fighting obesity, Jeff Canada tone the group is in some ways harder than fighting drugs. Were school drop outs I mean we got into this, be cause mobility and mortality issues ten years ago, just looking at what was happening in Harlem in you could see the end result of people.
in wheelchairs, missing legs and feet and stuff like dancing out. This is a horror show what's causing it need all trace backwards to this issue of what's happening, what young people, but it's become I think me a lot more complicated, because some of this is, I think, based on what parents and kids but I believe, a huge percentage of this is based on what commerce does answer. Communities and You know I want, I made the statement and I still believe it I was gonna get rid of drugs in Harlem. I just want to drugs to be old in Harlem, the waiter sold in the suburbs right quietly Obviously that is not pervasive, like This is the way of life, and this is the main commerce of this community. feel the same way about a lot of what is happening in the inner cities. It is almost impossible to get healthy things and
is very easy to get all of these unhealthy things, and so, even as we're thinking our kids and adult and families are worried that as the market has depended these community to consume more and more of these unhealthy food The averages we're up against more than just a parental sort of concern, the ball, would a commercial tv advertising, the accessibility, and so all of that to me suggest that Some communities are more vulnerable than others, even if you good sort of deal with lots of the challenges that families and individuals ass it s. One issue I have become. Increasingly convention. I am no scientists that a lot of this is addictive behaviour that the sugar that false consume it. It is an instant feedback. eating a twinkie. I don't know, maybe he I'm the only one that gets that sort of thing its action from doing it, but love The families, I think, are using right because
the rest of their lives so horrible that this is something they actually. You know you can enjoy now. Jeff wants to take that from you to coming up and for economic radio, some palatable and not so palatable. He is to fight childhood. Imagine a world where I can consume a parasite that could not reproduce and it will go. My bloodstream, and it would basically make the things that I e ineffective as nutrients maybe flush out of my mind, economics. Radio sponsored by wonder, is business movers podcast when cocoa
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for economics, radios brought to you by square, if you run a business Oh, how important it is to have a healthy cashflow. That's why we take payments with square either in person or online. You get your money fast access, it instantly vs, where card a free business, a bit card or transfer it. to your bank, account on you reschedule see all the ways Square can health at square dot com slash, go slash freak, though nonsense from W and Y, see and eight p M american public media. This is for economics, radio, here's, your host, Stephen Governor, Steve Levitt, my We spent a half day running a brainstorming session for the Robert would Johnson Foundation on the topic of childhood obesity.
One of the only ground rules was no idea was considered beneath discussion. Did you know, for instance, that quitting smoking, which is plainly good? your health usually leads to a significant weight gain. So the Good NEWS is that the american smoking rate has fallen from forty five percent in the nineteen fifties to about twenty four percent, but the bad news. Well, Here's build Dietz. The former CDC official estimates are that the reduction in tobacco use accounts for maybe twenty percent of insisting on his right so. You know very little and very little ok so no one is going to push for save, putting cigarette machines and schools to fight obesity, but we want to hear any other ideas from our participants. So we started a lightning truth. Repression, hurry hurry up,
grocery stores. Unhealthy foods would have to be restricted to certain locations, such as lack of a stone like porno department. In the video store idea. Abolish seekers does don't forget about tax Anti semitism the UK businesses can write off all the money they spend marking the kids is a business expense, just eliminate that tax deduction. I would say, start a real public health campaign aimed at the big food companies where we should be talking about how many people have been killed, hopes and Pepsi in whatever and just make it so that they feel the pressure to reform. They attract like a list of shame, just a big she's, just a big national shamed, becomingly about doing spirited, completely impractical things,
I would want to get rid of marketing of any product to any human being I can say that we want to know what I would do. It would be the sequestered out there somewhere, so people could voluntarily go find it. So it's all opt in marketing, it's up in marketing and so billboards in tv commercials and stuff with forbidden, because it just seems to me that marketing does have some benefits, obviously, for the companies, but to the individual has us of a small number of benefits, but a huge number of downsides and the course food we get caught up in this in a positive way, and that's what I, Chris, so I'm gonna fuck assign parenting skills, so the first Minister holder educational system accountable to deliver nutrition. activity, a media literacy by requiring standard as tests to assess it said it baseline mission baseline, sets and benchmarks and move the entire system along and treated as important as some other things and the sex.
It's too home environment, by incentives, rising parents through Helen Terence Work, site or welfare benefits to make a commitment to helping parenting ere. I think we'd have a suggestion. Paradigm shift in an embrace a paradigm shift and really let go of obesity as a target of self regulation and just focus Worthing on Mount attrition. Six. Most of our discussion here is really about children. Contrition obesity has lost throw baggage associated with it. I think its precise market even Oakdale momentum, and with Michel Obama's campaign. I'm afraid that China, the busiest come politicizing parson, went out and makes it more difficult issue to focus on and eyes. We would do better by making this issue of malnutrition,
We, then let me treaties are. I think I think the word malnutrition actually doesnt work very well, because malnutrition in implies hunger, but but whenever you say I met a ball syndromes. Nobody ever bigger one the now. What is it about arrangement arrangement is you're, not gonna, be a bumper sticker is also incredibly polychrome honey. But I like it, I like the putting together, we were you to herbal saying, which is that if you, you could get a fresh start, if you had the right marketing behind the idea that there is a sort of package of horrendous disease states which are heading towards and actually the more like marketing around metabolic syndrome doesn't do it for me I like, I know you remains an arrangement that or other army, but it seems to me that actually, the idea of marking the concept of there is this: this
This one thing which has a hundred bad thing for the DE strikes me as a really interesting way of trying to rethink their marrying that too, what we're Christmas going with parenting, which I really plugs. I think parents get off the hook really easy way to ease because most kids will eat what they want to eat when it's available right and were the ones who make it available. So what about using the? I actually like malnutrition, because I think it connotes the that, yes, we used to have the problem that people were ill because I didn't get enough to eat now. They are still ill because they're just eating too much of the wrong. The actually find the that that paradox, appealing lecture me purse, But what, if you could marry, the the key deceptive malnutrition with shame what about shaming the parents? What about this is a crusade that Parents are really that sexually if you make a hundred million homes, if child suffering from
yeah? I had abolished arrangement they're going to read. That is your kid. Fat goes right in all right with me. Just picking up on this one of the things we found in our research reactor even talk about this shit is when you focus Obesity and kids, you also, side effect in the jewel increase, eating disorders, care, and that has been caused. Also, we found that by just focusing on healthier eating and physical activity, you can reduce obesity and kids and reduce eating disorders. At the same time, so I think I agree with the focus on fat Kids, are obesity as a topic that focus on the behaviors and environmental change?
several of the most intriguing ideas in the lightning round came from one person harboured economist David. I very much like the idea of a tax on life of feeling that, up to an economist, that's delicious leaps and proposed a grand experiment where, in some places, you'd put attacks on unhealthy foods and, in other places, leave prices the safe to see how consumers would respond and how much it would cost to nudge people away from those sheep empty calories believes in also had an idea for a piece of caloric monitoring jewellery. Imagine you had a bracelet verdict war or an adult, whereas, if I had this would affect my behavior and go into a meal. It starts registering two hundred: seven
hundred nine hundred fourteen hundred calories, and as it tells me on, eating more and more. In this feeling episode, it starts to change its cause. From Green Yellow the orange to read and then start pulsing, red red Red read my way out of range squeezing teetering many aspects of this may made may seem effective if the technology could be developed and we can put the issue of how to develop the implanted probe. So there you are, we can get this external measurement, though there are increasingly external else's diabetic measures that they can fix it but the reason I mention this because back the reinforcement, Point that I made earlier, which is organisms, are very good at learn. Wendy stimulus in response are tightly linked in time and their terrible at learn. When stimulus in response are separated by ten minutes, let alone five years, so
if we could somehow help people realize what you just eight is doing it now. I think people with feel much more negativity towards over and David absence, final idea, let me just say a few of you might find this A bit distaste. Imagine a world where I could have a consumer parasite that couldn't we produce, and it will go into my bloodstream and it would basically make the things that I e ineffective. As dreams and they would flush out of my body and because the parasite doesn't reproducing control. How much I want- and I can t skating, I don t- a parasite enough, I'm getting fat. I take it Besides, I am proposing is a world where We love you. I love everyone sandwich last night and I could have more of those in principle to up to a limit I had an ability to kind of terminal My bodies capacity, my body so efficient at turning
calories and nutrients into Mauro me and if I, partially incapacitated that in a way that to control away that was safe in a way that you know, wouldn't it be. Because then the food companies could sell more food for just two. It's always been my believe that when there's one economist and the room, you feel like you're, really smart when their tear you feel really dumb distant example of this David talked about about his parasite. all afternoon learning about taproom says because all economists think exactly thing, and I came to believe that you can do better than the current tapeworm, but there are some pretty good tapeworms out there right now. There's there certainly bad tapeworms fish tapeworm returns. I wish you wouldn't really want anybody, but it further. I think it was the beef tapeworm ended all sorts of tapeworms that actually are not perfect, but are our
pretty good already doing what David wants him to do, and I'm sure if we could do mess gave them with the kind of effort we put into dogs in in cars and things we could make tapeworms are some of the most loyal and serviceable pack said whenever, whatever be out there that was Steve Levitt and before him, David leads and, as you can tell, obesity is one of those problems that is so tricky that some of the possible solutions found be outlandish, it's hard to say how or if any of the ideas you heard today will be acted upon. Steve Levitt and I were just the facilitators of this discussion. Other people will be the executors when it was over love it, and I held a brief postmortem. We closed the press.
meetings with the experiments em you dreamed about that you ve talked about for years and years. I might describe that and tell me what effect you think it had, so the issues we didn't talk. A lot about during this conference was was self control and the fact that many people who want to lose weight are unable to do so. because they are in the moment and of eating more than they would like to end regretting it later. So there are different solutions to that one very aggressive and invasive solutions, barometric surgery, which makes it difficult for you, it locked, but my father really put the idea in my had many years ago when he suggested that if you really don't want to gain weight whenever you start you think you're hungry, he should carry around a little jar of a baby food yard was filled with with human vomit and is to open up, take a whip, and you won't have any desire to do. It now turns out its operational hard.
Figure out how to get vomit into a baby food jar, but my friends had W W w that liquid assets com have actually done their favorite I so I recently discovered, and you can buy in a bottle of spray bottled or squeeze bottom. The most withdrawal, smiling things in the world which all you need to do is take one or two whiffs of em, and you think you don't need to eat for a long time after that, and so we brought it out to to show the obesity researchers and take their pulse on it so ass. We pass these bottles around the room and invited people to have a sniff. I notice that almost all of the outsiders, the economists in this the social, supply side to so many of them, took a good deal with, but none of the obesity experts, Amy, where no one, not one of them, wanted to take a whiff of that stuff. I think it tells you something what what does that? Tell you I'm, not sure if I have to think about it, but the division in response was notable and liquid
ass a lottery nervous, I mean I realize it's kind of joke, but do you think it's a personal responsibility idea here? In other words, do you think that the experts have come to divorce? The idea of obesity and personal responsibility to the point where the problem is not really on the end users so much they dont need to work so hard aid is an interesting point. You raised it. I do believe that the outsiders were much quicker to think about the problem at the individual level about self control about. Why do individuals become obese where's? The experts in the field think of it much more in environmental terms and what are the food companies doing and how things market.
in how the individual is not whether the actor that we acted upon, it is an interesting different Dwayne from the foundation, I have to say he stuck his nose, deepen each and he had, of course, the the classic quote, member exactly the same as environment smiled. If it is it really not the same coming up next time on for economics, radio of all the problem with the: U S: tax system, one of the biggest, is also the most obvious to many people don't pay what they owe How much money we talk about here at least four hundred
the billion dollars billion with a b every yourself for a minute, forget about wholesale tax reform. What, some good ideas to simply get people to pay up. Here's one employee, forming. So just telling people that nine out of ten other people pay their tax on time is enough to create a fifteen percent increase people are just pay their tax using the herd, mentality and other nudges to help close attacks gap that next time on for economic freedom. Economics radio was produced by W and Y see ATM american public media and debonnair productions. This episode was produced by sea, the election bird, our staff includes Catherine well stay the firm in Bahrain, Lamb and Chris Ban in HOLLAND. Campbell is our executive producer. If you want more frequent comics radio, you can subscribe to our cast on Itunes
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Transcript generated on 2021-03-15.