The American Heart Association has apparently issued new guidelines on sugar, urging everyone to cut their intake to 9 teaspoons a day, or a little more than one 12-ounce coke.

I'm not sure what to make of this.  Pretty clearly, almost no one is going to cut their sugar intake that far, except people who already have cut their sugar intake.  I suspect that the American Heart Association is hoping for some sort of anchoring effect:  people hearing they should cut their sugar intake to 9 teaspo0ns will maybe bring it down to 18 or 27.

But I think that anchoring only works when people actually have to participate.  When people have the option of ignoring you, making your goal too extreme may actually decrease its effectiveness. 

You can think of it in terms of the real estate market.  Sellers often insist on listing their house at an inflated price, on the off chance that someone will bite, and to enhance their bargaining position.  But often it just means that buyers don't bother to look.  Buyers can make the same mistake, lowballing their offer only to have the sellers conclude that they are not serious and refuse to negotiate.

So I suspect that where moderate guidelines might have done something, this will simply be ignored.  Along with their recommendations on sodium intake and most other forms of dangerous deliciousness.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.