How the Sugar Lobby Poisoned America

In the 1960s, after multiple scientific articles were published linking sucrose with coronary heart disease (the leading cause of death in the U.S), the American sugar lobby sprang into action. 

An article published in JAMA Internal Medicine exposed how an industry group, The Sugar Research Foundation, paid for scientific studies supporting sugar consumption. Then, in 1967 scientific studies conducted by Harvard researchers became published in medical journals without any disclosure that they had been paid for by the SRF. These corrupted studies demonstrated that fat was the enemy causing unprecedented levels of heart disease, not sugar. This research caused doctors all over the U.S to advise patients at risk of heart disease to lower their fat consumption while failing to mention anything about sugar. 

While the article published in JAMA did not attempt to link sugar with heart disease, it did illuminate how the Sugar Research Foundation paid for research to protect its industry’s profits. These intentions were made clear in a speech the president of the SRF gave in 1954, summarized by NPR, “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. As a result, America’s per capita sugar consumption could go up by a third.”

The equivalent of 50,000 dollars today was paid to Harvard Researchers; a year later, studies were published linking fat to the disease instead of sugar. Scientists also began to hold studies of sugar and fat to different standards. “Epidemiological studies of sugar consumption — which look at patterns of health and disease in the real world — were dismissed for having too many possible factors getting in the way.”The JAMA study concluded with this commentary, “Is it really true that food companies deliberately set out to manipulate research in their favor? Yes, it is, and the practice continues. In 2015, the New York Times obtained emails revealing Coca-Cola’s cozy relationships with sponsored researchers who were conducting studies aimed at minimizing the effects of sugary drinks on obesity. Even more recently, the Associated Press obtained emails showing how a candy trade association funded and influenced studies to show that children who eat sweets have healthier body weights than those who do not.”

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