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50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat

JAMA Internal Medicine have published an article recently with shocking claims that in the 1960s, the sugar industry funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the risks of fat. 

In the newly published article , internal documents show that an industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation wanted to “refute” concerns about sugar’s possible role in heart disease. 

Harvard scientists where then sponsored by SRF to come up with the study that gave them what they wanted, which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (1967) with no mention of the fact it was actually funded by the sugar industry.

The study downplayed the negatives of a high sugar diet and instead concluded that cutting fat out of American diets was the best way to address coronary heart disease.

Authors of the new  JAMA article say that for the past five decades, the sugar industry has been attempting to influence the scientific debate over the relative risks of sugar and fat, 

“It was a very smart thing the sugar industry did, because review papers, especially if you get them published in a very prominent journal, tend to shape the overall scientific discussion,” co-author Stanton Glantz told The New York Times.

The authors of the new article, Glantz, Cristin Kearns and Laura Schmidt say they aren’t trying make the case for a link between sugar and coronary heart disease, they are just interested in the process. 

The research was not conducted without limitations, “We could not interview key actors involved in this historical episode because they have died,” they said. They also note that the SRF were not the only ones at the time trying to influenced the public’s perception on sugar and fat. 

They also say that while there’s no direct evidence that the SRF edited the manuscript published by the Harvard scientists in 1967 there is “circumstantial” evidence that the conclusion was shaped by the interests of the sugar lobby.

One piece of  incriminating evidence ts that, in 1954, the president of the SRF gave a speech say that, if Americans could be persuaded to eat a lower-fat diet, for the sake of their health, they would need to replace that fat with something else- meaning America’s per capita sugar consumption could potentially go up by a third

Glantz, Kearns and Schmidt have said that many of the articles examined in the review were hand-selected by SRF, and it was heavily implied that the sugar industry would expect them to be critiqued.

A letter shown in the study has SRF’s Hickson saying that the organization’s “particular interest” was in evaluating studies focused on “carbohydrates in the form of sucrose.”
“We are well aware, and will cover this as well as we can.” one of the scientists replied

When the study was published in 1967, Hickson was definitely happy with the result, saying “Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind and we look forward to its appearance in print,”
He was happy because the review minimized the significance of research that suggested sugar could play a role in coronary heart disease, giving the sugar industry time to breathe.

“It is always appropriate to question the validity of individual studies,” Kearns told Bloomberg. But she says, “the authors applied a different standard” to different studies, meaning that they critiqued in intense detail at the studies surrounding sugar and ignored the problems of the studies on the dangers of fat. 

For example, one study that found a health benefit when people ate less sugar and more vegetables was dismissed because that dietary change was not feasible. In another study, in which rats were given a diet low in fat and high in sugar, this was rejected because “such diets are rarely consumed by man.” 

A statement from the Sugar Association (which evolved out of the SRF) has said it is challenging to comment on events from so long ago.

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. 

Generally speaking, it is not only unfortunate but a disservice that industry-funded research is branded as tainted,” the statement continues. “What is often missing from the dialogue is that industry-funded research has been informative in addressing key issues.

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50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat 50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat Reviewed by C C on 17:16:00 Rating: 5