Sugar Industry Attempts to Manipulate the Science

Sugar Industry Attempts to Manipulate the Science
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How the food industry responds to “health food faddists.”

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Corporations are legally required to maximise shareholder profits and therefore have to oppose public health policies that could threaten profits.” It’s just how the system is set up. “Unequivocal, longstanding evidence shows that to achieve this, diverse industries with products that can damage health have worked systematically to subvert the scientific process.”

Take the sugar industry, for example. Internal documents showed they were concerned that health food “faddists” were becoming “an active menace to the…industry.” Sugar was under attack, “and many of the poor unfortunate public swallow the misinformation broadcast by the propagandists.” What were books like Yudkin’s Pure, White and Deadly saying? “All of the propaganda [is] to the effect that sugar is a non-essential food.” Gasp! No! How dare they say sugar is a non-essential food? Next, they’ll be saying it’s not really food at all. And, that was the sugar industry’s line: “sugar is a cheap safe food”—and this coming from the founder and chair of Harvard’s nutrition department, Fredrick Stare, long known as “Harvard’s sugar-pushing nutritionist.”

Not only did the sugar industry try to influence the direction of dental research, but heart disease research as well, paying Stare and colleagues to write this review to help downplay any risk from sugar. Now, to be fair, this was five years before we even realized triglycerides were also an independent risk factor beyond just cholesterol. The main reason attention stayed focused on saturated fat is not because of the might of the sugar industry; there was just not as much data to support it.

In fact, “the [even] more powerful meat and dairy industries” loved the anti-sugar message. Who do you think sponsored Yudkin? In fact, on like the first page of Pure, White and Deadly, he thanks all the food and drug companies that had provided him with such “constant generous support.” Who paid for Yudkin’s speaking tour? The egg industry, of course—to try to take some heat off cholesterol.

Hegsted, one of the co-authors of the funded review, wasn’t exactly an industry cheerleader. He recommended people cut down on all the risky stuff: “less meat, less saturated fat, less cholesterol, [and] less sugar, less salt.” It wasn’t the sugar industry that got him fired for speaking truth to power; it was the beef industry.

The sugar industry was able to conceal its funding, because the New England Journal of Medicine didn’t require disclosure of conflicts of interest until 17 years later. These muckraking researchers suggest policymakers “should consider giving less weight to food industry-funded studies.” But why is the food industry funding studies at all? When it comes to the “corporate manipulation of research,” ultimately conflicts of interest don’t just need to be disclosed and “managed,” but ideally “eliminated.”

Things may not change until public health researchers start “refus[ing] to take money from the [junk food] industry,” period. “It worked for tobacco.” Many prestigious medical and public health institutions “have…instituted bans on tobacco industry funding.”

But wait; can’t scientists remain “objective [and] impartial” even in the face of all that cash? Apparently not, as “[i]ndustry funded research” has been shown to be up to 88 times more likely to produce funder-favorable outcomes. What, do we think corporations are in the business of just handing out money for free?

The classic example is the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, who “accepted $1 million [grant] from Coca-Cola.” Before the grant, their official position was that “frequent consumption of [sugary beverages] can be a significant factor in the…initiation and progression of dental [cavities],” which—after the grant—changed to “scientific evidence is certainly not clear on the exact role that soft drinks play.” As CSPI’s Integrity in Science Project put it, “What a difference a million dollars makes!”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

“Corporations are legally required to maximise shareholder profits and therefore have to oppose public health policies that could threaten profits.” It’s just how the system is set up. “Unequivocal, longstanding evidence shows that to achieve this, diverse industries with products that can damage health have worked systematically to subvert the scientific process.”

Take the sugar industry, for example. Internal documents showed they were concerned that health food “faddists” were becoming “an active menace to the…industry.” Sugar was under attack, “and many of the poor unfortunate public swallow the misinformation broadcast by the propagandists.” What were books like Yudkin’s Pure, White and Deadly saying? “All of the propaganda [is] to the effect that sugar is a non-essential food.” Gasp! No! How dare they say sugar is a non-essential food? Next, they’ll be saying it’s not really food at all. And, that was the sugar industry’s line: “sugar is a cheap safe food”—and this coming from the founder and chair of Harvard’s nutrition department, Fredrick Stare, long known as “Harvard’s sugar-pushing nutritionist.”

Not only did the sugar industry try to influence the direction of dental research, but heart disease research as well, paying Stare and colleagues to write this review to help downplay any risk from sugar. Now, to be fair, this was five years before we even realized triglycerides were also an independent risk factor beyond just cholesterol. The main reason attention stayed focused on saturated fat is not because of the might of the sugar industry; there was just not as much data to support it.

In fact, “the [even] more powerful meat and dairy industries” loved the anti-sugar message. Who do you think sponsored Yudkin? In fact, on like the first page of Pure, White and Deadly, he thanks all the food and drug companies that had provided him with such “constant generous support.” Who paid for Yudkin’s speaking tour? The egg industry, of course—to try to take some heat off cholesterol.

Hegsted, one of the co-authors of the funded review, wasn’t exactly an industry cheerleader. He recommended people cut down on all the risky stuff: “less meat, less saturated fat, less cholesterol, [and] less sugar, less salt.” It wasn’t the sugar industry that got him fired for speaking truth to power; it was the beef industry.

The sugar industry was able to conceal its funding, because the New England Journal of Medicine didn’t require disclosure of conflicts of interest until 17 years later. These muckraking researchers suggest policymakers “should consider giving less weight to food industry-funded studies.” But why is the food industry funding studies at all? When it comes to the “corporate manipulation of research,” ultimately conflicts of interest don’t just need to be disclosed and “managed,” but ideally “eliminated.”

Things may not change until public health researchers start “refus[ing] to take money from the [junk food] industry,” period. “It worked for tobacco.” Many prestigious medical and public health institutions “have…instituted bans on tobacco industry funding.”

But wait; can’t scientists remain “objective [and] impartial” even in the face of all that cash? Apparently not, as “[i]ndustry funded research” has been shown to be up to 88 times more likely to produce funder-favorable outcomes. What, do we think corporations are in the business of just handing out money for free?

The classic example is the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, who “accepted $1 million [grant] from Coca-Cola.” Before the grant, their official position was that “frequent consumption of [sugary beverages] can be a significant factor in the…initiation and progression of dental [cavities],” which—after the grant—changed to “scientific evidence is certainly not clear on the exact role that soft drinks play.” As CSPI’s Integrity in Science Project put it, “What a difference a million dollars makes!”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

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