Have you been avoiding fatty foods like the plague ever since you started worrying more about your health? According to a report, this was all a... ruse, thanks to another culprit: the sugar industry.
Last year, post-doctoral researcher Cristin Kearns revealed confidential documents which showed an uncomfortable truth. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the sugar industry hid the fact that its products are very unhealthy. How did they succeed? By diverting the public’s attention toward fat.
It all started in 2007 when Kearns ran a large group of dental practices. She was participating in a conference focused on the links between diabetes and gum disease. There, she noticed that no one at the event was debating the role sugar plays in both of the diseases. Not even in pamphlets and leaflets. Nobody suggested that diabetic dental patients should cut back on sugar.
She started to research the topic by Googling for info, on her own, after coming home from her full-time job. She found something unexpected: confidential documents, correspondence and other materials which showed a special relationship between the sugar industry and medical researchers in the 1960s and ’70s. The team at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where Kearns is a post-doctoral researcher, nicknamed them the “Sugar Papers.”
What did the sugar industry do?
On Monday, Kearns published a paper in The Journal of American Medical Association in which she details how the leading sugar industry trade group paid 3 Harvard researchers nearly $50,000, adjusted for inflation, to publish a review which linked fat and cholesterol to the increased risk of heart disease. And all this while ignoring the very existence of sugar and its effects on the body.
The Sugar Research Foundation, which has changed its name to the Sugar Association, set the objective for the Harvard researchers review, contributes articles for inclusion and received drafts from the researchers.
The review was published in two parts in the New England Journal of Medicine, in 1967. But it did not mention The Sugar Research Foundation’s involvement.
The sugar industry also worked with The National Institutes of Health during those decades. Together they created a federal program to combat tooth decay in children that did not recommend limiting sugar consumption.
“The review concluded there was 'no doubt' that the only dietary intervention required to prevent CHD [coronary heart disease] was to reduce dietary cholesterol and substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat in the American diet,” Kearns and her co-authors wrote in the paper.
Today, a lot more scientists agree that sugar, and not fat, was the more significant dietary problem all along. And public health experts are trying to diminish American’s consumption.