The Sour Side of Sugar

It has the making of a great episode on criminal minds. A wealthy executive in the sugar industry pays a group of scientists to publish a biased medical report that plays down the harmful effects of sugar, and pins the blame on saturated fat as a leading cause of heart disease. According to a recent publication from JAMA Internal Medicine, this was the case in the 1960’s. The report was adopted by government officials and used to determine much of the government's dietary policies regarding harmful and dangerous substances.

A recent article published by the NY Times outlines this incredible story. Back in 1960, a self-interest group called The Sugar Association paid off a group of Harvard Scientists to publish a review on sugar, fat, and heart disease. This report, which was carefully curated by both parties, deliberately played down the harmful effects of sugar and placed the blame of cardiovascular disease and illness on saturated fats:

“As they worked on their review, the Harvard researchers shared and discussed early drafts with Mr. Hickson, who responded that he was pleased with what they were writing. The Harvard scientists had dismissed the data on sugar as weak and given far more credence to the data implicating saturated fat.”

The Sugar Association was not the only self-interest group to do so. In a different article, the NY Times also linked Coca-Cola to funding medical studies which played down the role of sugar in cases of obesity. 

Recent studies have revealed that sugar plays a large role in cardiovascular disease:

“Given the data that we have today, we have shown the refined carbohydrates and especially sugar-sweetened beverages are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, but that the type of dietary fat is also very important.”

In response to these findings, the Sugar Association released this statement: 

“We acknowledge that the Sugar Research Foundation should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities, however, when the studies in question were published funding disclosures and transparency standards were not the norm they are today. Beyond this, it is challenging for us to comment on events that allegedly occurred 60 years ago, and on documents, we have never seen.” 

Today, researchers are required to reveal their sources of funding to protect the public from the impact of self-interest groups such as the Sugar Association. It’s important for us consumers to be critical of the way information is presented to us, especially when it comes in the form of facts (we need to read between the lines). Critically looking at information, and its sources, is an important step to making us smarter, and more informed, consumers.

By Amit Louis| September 14, 2016
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Amit Louis

Amit Louis

Amit is the founder of ALT-EDUCATION and The Web 3. He has an MA in Communications from the University of Tel Aviv and a BA High Honours in Mass communication from Carleton University. Amit's passions include teaching, storytelling, all things media, and people!

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