Back in the 1960s, everyone thought that fat was playing with our health. No one had any clue that sugar was the silent mischievous doer. There was a debate going on about the role of fats and the role of sugar in our health.
And the sugar industries were silently influencing this debate. “What the sugar industry successively did, is they shifted all of the blame onto fats” argues Stanton Glantz of the University of California, San Francisco.
According to Glantz industry’s strategies were sophisticated, and were very similar to those of the tobacco industry. One instance was the Sugar Research Foundation which secretly funded a scientific review in 1965 that diminished the evidence that associated sugar consumption to blood fat levels. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“IT HELPED TO DERAIL THIS ISSUE FOR QUITE A LONG TIME.”
Now, after 50 years reinvestigation was published in the journal PLOS Biology that throws light on how industry-funded its own research project, however never disclosed the findings.
Glantz along with his collaborators, including Cristin Kearns, an assistant professor at UCSF, analyzed a bunch of sugar industry internal documents. And here it is what they found:
The Sugar Research Foundation, which was formed before the International Sugar Research Foundation, invested to a researcher team to lead a study with lab animals in 1968. Primary results showed that a high-sugar diet raised the animals’ triglyceride levels, a kind of fat in the blood, through upshots on the gut bacteria.People who have high triglycerides have the higher risk of heart attacks and strokes. The review also revealed that animals who were with fed sugar had higher levels of an enzyme which was linked to bladder cancer in their urine.
“In 2015, The New York Times reported that Coca-Cola paid scientists to distract the public from the connection between sugary drinks and obesity. “
Before the study could see its final picture it was halted in the middle of the project. According to Glantz the researcher requested for more time to continue with the study, however, the Sugar Research Foundation pulled off the plug on the project.
A Washington-based group called The Sugar Association has organizational ties with the Sugar Research Foundation, has released a statement on this new investigation.
“The study in question ended for three basic reasons, none of which involved potential research findings,” says the association. The association goes on to further explain that the study was going beyond the budget and quite delayed. “The delay overlapped with an organizational restructuring with the Sugar Research Foundation becoming a new entity, the International Sugar Research Foundation,” says the statement.
The business group also told that sugar consumed in moderation is a general part of a balanced lifestyle, and in its statement, the group further says “we remain committed in support of the research to further understand the role sugar plays in consumers’ evolving eating habits.”
“THIS WASN’T ABOUT SCIENCE. THIS WAS ABOUT MARKETING.”
However, industry critics still argue that the sugar industry is still trying to downshift the consensus on the health risks related to sugar consumption. In a biology research paper, Glantz and his co-authors argue that the ongoing controversy encompassing the sugar in our diets “can be rooted in more than 60 years of food and beverage industry manipulation of science.”
In past few years, new evidence has surfaced that shows the links between sugary diets and heart disease. However, could we have received the message sooner?
UCSF’s Kearns criticize that if the sugar industry had published its findings decades ago, they would have added to a growing body of evidence. “Had this information been made public, there would have been a lot more research scrutiny of sugar,” Kearns said.
Kearns claims that the sugar industry has “a lot of money, power, and influence” and they still use its power to cast doubt on the recommendation to limit added sugars to no more than 10% of daily calories.
In a business association publication last year, the president and CEO of the Sugar Association reported this recommended limit on sugar, which is a fraction of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as “scientifically out of bounds.”