❝ The sugar industry has a long history of shaping nutrition policy in the United States, working to mask the potential risks of consuming too much of the sweet stuff.
It wasn’t until this year, for instance, that the US Dietary Guidelines finally recommended people keep their consumption of added sugars below 10 percent of their total calorie intake — decades after health advocates began pressing for the measure. The sugar lobby had fended off this recommendation all the while.
❝ New research, published…in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that Big Sugar may have done more than just advocate for favorable policies. Going back more than 50 years, the industry has been distorting scientific research by dictating what questions get asked about sugar, particularly questions around sugar’s role in promoting heart disease.
❝ The paper focuses on a debate that first popped up in the 1950s, when the rate of heart disease started to shoot up in the United States. Scientists began searching for answers, and zeroed in on dietary saturated fat as the leading contributor. The energy we get from food comes in three kinds of nutrients: fats, carbohydrates, and protein…
Today, scientific consensus related to the role specific macronutrients play in the diet has shifted. Researchers have come around to the view that a person’s overall eating habits probably matter more for health than the particular percentages of carbs, fats, and proteins taken in. But they also generally agree that some kinds of fats are less damaging to health than others. (In particular, unsaturated fats appear to be better for one’s cardiovascular disease risk than saturated and trans fats.) And that too much sugar can be just as bad as too much fat for the heart.
❝ The new JAMA paper reveals why the public may know less about the sugar-heart link than it ought to…
Beginning in the 1950s, notes the JAMA paper, led by Cristin Kearns of UC San Francisco, a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation was concerned about evidence showing that a low-fat diet high in sugar might raise cholesterol levels in the blood.
If sugar turned out to be a major driver of heart issues, the group surmised, that could be devastating for sugar producers…So the Sugar Research Foundation aligned itself with leading Harvard nutrition professors, and paid them the equivalent of $48,900 (in 2016 dollars) for a two-part research review, later published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that would discredit the link between sugar and heart disease.
It ain’t just ancient history. A couple generations of nutritionist were taught to believe the skewed analysis was holy writ, a premise so well established it must serve as the starting point for all following work.
RTFA for details. Yes, there’s nothing new about money buying results. Sometimes in science, though more rarely, say, than in American politics.