Cause and effect

23113917What’s something men tend to buy less of when times are tough?

Most guys will put a low priority on buying themselves new underwear when money gets tight. A result of their inaction is that men’s underwear sales tend to drop in a slow economy. Even Alan Greenspan used men’s underwear sales as one of the economic indictors he looked at when making economic forecasts.

But, one thing happening at the same time as another thing doesn’t always mean that one is causing the other thing to happen. Correlation isn’t always causation. Sometimes it’s even a case of “despite” instead of “because.” Many situations are so complicated you’d never be able to tease out how much influence one thing has on another. Even so, people still like to try to understand the world around them.

Was the introduction of large diameter drinking straws an indicator as well as a contributor to the obesity epidemic in the US that’s now in full bloom? A columnist in the Washington Post posed the question and traced the introduction of the big bore straw to around 1988.

How big an influence did these jumbo straws have compared to the other factors like bigger portion sizes, less active lives, industrially processed foods, and the like? Hard to say. But a bigger straw enables people to drink more and drink more easily.

And most people use jumbo sized straws mainly when drinking sugary beverages, not water. It’s like death by a thousand little cuts – obesity by a thousand little behaviors.