Sugar Recommendations are Based on ’60 Years of Industry Manipulation of Science’
Ahhhh, the sweet sugar industry, willing to fudge any numbers to make suckers out of us. All puns aside, this is exactly what the sugar industry did back in the 1960s. Specifically, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) secretly funded research at Harvard to downplay sugar’s possible link to coronary heart disease (CHD). The goal was to shift attention to fats as a greater hazard. In the end, the sugar industry succeeded.
Sugar Recommendations are Based on Biased Research
An ongoing investigation by Stanton Glantz from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), revealed that the sugar industry funded a review published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967. This review “singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of coronary heart disease and downplayed evidence that sucrose consumption was also a risk factor.” In the end, this sugar industry-funded study shaped the overall discussion around heart disease.
Glantz and his collaborators have been evaluating historical industry documentation spanning the last 50+ years. They argue that the ongoing controversy surrounding sugar in our diets “may be rooted in more than 60 years of food and beverage industry manipulation of science.”
In November 2016, they published the following statement:
The SRF sponsored its first CHD research project in 1965, a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of CHD and downplayed evidence that sucrose consumption was also a risk factor. The SRF set the review’s objective, contributed articles for inclusion, and received drafts. The SRF’s funding and role was not disclosed.
Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD. (source)
Many critics of the sugar industry believe that trade groups such as the Sugar Association are still working to influence policy. The industry’s goal is to diminish the growing consensus that sugar consumption poses serious health risks:
“Cristin Kearns, an assistant professor at UCSF, says the sugar industry has ‘a lot of money and influence’ and still uses its influence to cast doubt on the recommendation to limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily calories.” (source)
Sugar’s Health Risks Concealed
In November 2017, the same team of UCSF researchers discovered that the SRF also funded a study with lab animals in 1968. This particular study showed that high-sugar diet increased the animals’ triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke in humans.
In addition, this particular animal study suggested that a high sugar diet might be associated with elevated levels of an enzyme beta-glucuronidase. In other studies, scientists have linked this enzyme to bladder cancer in humans.
Glantz revealed that the SRF pulled the funding on the animal studies, even though researchers asked for more time to continue their work. Glantz and his associates wrote:
The sugar industry did not disclose evidence of harm from animal studies that would have (1) strengthened the case that the CHD risk of sucrose is greater than starch and (2) caused sucrose to be scrutinized as a potential carcinogen.
Now, what’s come to light in an investigation published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Biology is that the industry funded its own research project, but never disclosed the findings.
“The simple, irrefutable fact is this: Sugar is a healthy part of a diet. Carbohydrates, including sugar, are the preferred sources of the body’s fuel for brain power, muscle energy and every natural process that goes on in every functioning cell.”
The American Heart Association‘s sugar recommendations include:
The amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons.
Regardless of the messages you’ll get from trade groups, more people are reducing or altogether removing sugar from their diets. Diet protocols, such as the ketogenic diet or Whole 30 diet, focus on minimizing natural sugars, removing added sugars, and limiting carbohydrate consumption. The multitude of success stories from people going keto or eating whole foods are a testimony to the better health and weight-loss you can expect when limiting sugar intake.
Read more articles by Anna Hunt.
About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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