Here's How The Food Industry Made Us Think Sugar Isn't That Bad For Us


Their strategy was to dupe us into thinking it was all saturated fat — not sugary sweets — to blame for heart disease.

A new study shows that the sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to downplay the link between sugar and heart disease — blaming saturated fat, instead.

A new study shows that the sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to downplay the link between sugar and heart disease — blaming saturated fat, instead.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco just published an article in JAMA Internal Medicine that documents how the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF, now called the Sugar Association), starting in the 1950's, set out to warp our understanding of the effects of sugar on health in order to get more Americans to eat sugar.

The research is the result of a review of hundreds of internal documents and correspondence from the SRF.

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Big Sugar did this by exploiting growing concern over coronary heart disease.

Big Sugar did this by exploiting growing concern over coronary heart disease.

In the 1950's scientists were studying possible dietary causes of the “disproportionately high rates” of death in American men caused by coronary heart disease. The studies looked at everything from cholesterol and excessive calories to fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals.

In a 1954 speech to a sugar industry association, SRF's president Henry Hass proposed they capitalize on nutritionists' suggestion that there might be a link between Americans' high-fat diet and these high rates of heart disease. What better time to shift the blame to saturated fats, while making sugar look like a delicious pick-me-up?

According to the study, the sugar industry would go on to spend the equivalent of $5.3 million in 2016 dollars on their campaign to get Americans to replace fat calories with calories from sugar. “At last people who never had a course in biochemistry are going to learn that sugar is what keeps every human being alive and with energy to face our daily problems,” Hass said.

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When the evidence started to mount that sugar was bad for heart health, the SRF launched a campaign to drown out sugar’s critics.

When the evidence started to mount that sugar was bad for heart health, the SRF launched a campaign to drown out sugar's critics.

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The SRF paid three Harvard scientists to publish a 1967 literature review that would discredit studies that showed a link between sugar and heart disease, while demonizing saturated fat.

The SRF paid three Harvard scientists to publish a 1967 literature review that would discredit studies that showed a link between sugar and heart disease, while demonizing saturated fat.

The SRF was even involved in selecting which studies were to be included in the review and was shown drafts before the two-part review's publication in 1967. When the review was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the SRF's role in funding and shaping the study was not disclosed. That's probably because the journal didn't start requiring study authors to disclose any conflicts of interest until 1984.

Classic Film via Flickr / Via bit.ly

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