HealthNutrition

REVEALED: Sugar Industry Paid Harvard Scientists to Shift Blame to Fat

The sugar industry paid Harvard researchers to downplay the link between sugar and heart disease and paint saturated fat as the villain.

INDUSTRY FINANCED SCIENCE IS NOT REALLY SCIENCE

The ability of lobbyists to influence affairs is not something new. Industry-financed “science” is never really science and should best be viewed with a wary eye. But the newly released historical documents show how twistedly corrupt industry-sponsored science can be.

The sugar industry disperses millions in lobbying expenses. According to Forbes, five sugar-related organizations spent a combined $8.3 million on lobbying in 2014.

Documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, suggest that 50 years of research on the role of nutrition and heart disease, may have been shaped by the sugar industry. This research affects many of today’s dietary recommendations.

harvard scientists

SHIFTING THE BLAME TO FAT

In the 1950s when coronary heart disease was on the rise in the United States, researchers began suspecting high-sugar diet as a possible cause. A trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF),  known today as the Sugar Association, did what any concerned and corrupt industry group would do. They bought their own science to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and shift the blame to fat.

According to the documents, SRF paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The article was then published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. The review, handpicked by the sugar group, minimized the role of sugar in coronary heart disease. It concluded that saturated fat and cholesterol were the real culprits, the New York Times reports. In the 1950s when coronary heart disease was on the rise in the United States, researchers began suspecting high-sugar diet as a possible cause. A trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF),  known today as the Sugar Association, did what any concerned and corrupt industry group would do. They bought their own science to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and shift the blame to fat.

THE MISINFORMED PUBLIC

If this revelation has not made you furious yet, one of the scientists, or better, one of the criminals was D.Mark Heisted. He went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture. He helped to draft the federal government’s dietary guidelines.

Misinformed public

The revelations are of great importance since review papers, especially if published in prominent journals, shape the overall scientific discussion. The research concluded that sugar does not have a unique role in heart disease. For decades, health officials encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake. Sugar just got a rep for rotting your teeth but otherwise was considered benign. This demonization of fat led many people to consume low-fat, high-sugar foods. Americans began to replace their morning eggs with bagels, fuelling today’s obesity crisis.

CORPORATIONS MAKE IT HARD TO TRUST NUTRITION STUDIES

Even though the documents go back 50 years, the food industry continues to influence nutrition science. Government nutrition rules have always and still are based on money and politics rather than sound science. The federal dietary guidelines still warn against saturated fat and accept funding from industry groups and food companies such as Unilever.

One of the industry’s most powerful tactics is the funding of nutrition research. It carries academic authority, becomes a part of scientific literature, and generates headlines. Every major industry seeks to game research and skew the facts. That article you read about oatmeal breakfast keeping you fuller for longer? Surprise, surprise. This was funded by Quaker Oats.

Last year, an article in The New York Times revealed that Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, paid millions of dollars in funding to researchers who sought to play down the link between sugary drinks and obesity. They planned to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite the evidence that exercise has a minimal impact on weight compared with diet. 

coca cola

There was another truly startling scientific finding which claimed that children who eat candy weight less than those who don’t. It turns out, the paper was funded by a trade association representing the makers of Butterfingers, Hershey and Skittles.

PROFITS OVER OUR HEALTH

I don’t know about you but I am angry. Falsifying valuable health information is nothing but an act of evil. Not only was this act morally wrong, but contributed significantly to promoting a fraud that created an ongoing health disaster. It’s absolutely disgusting, and disappointing that many “experts” in medicine and food policy cannot be trusted. Shame on the people who manufacture research to support their agenda.

 

Check out our Monday Myths!

Here we explain cholesterol and why carbs are not the enemy.

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Wiktoria Banda

Wiktoria is a content writer and illustrator at Shape.

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