You heard it from the Sugar Association, so it must be the real deal: it’s OK to eat lots of sugar.
Seriously? Is it just me or, bringing another additive on stage, is it obvious that we need to ingest this statement with a large grain of salt?
This is what the statement stems from: health news is a-buzz right now with the revelation that, back in the 1960s, some researchers from Harvard were paid the equivalent of over $45 000 USD to produce a special study.
The study ‘proved’ that there was ‘no doubt’ that fat intake caused heart disease. Or rather, that reducing a person’s intake of cholesterol and saturated fats was the only true path to preventing the development of heart disease. Eating a lot of sugar had nothing to do with the health of your personal pump station.
But it turns out that’s not accurate. The problem lies in how the study was funded. The funds to complete this study-a prominent one- were given to the researchers by the aforementioned body called “The Sugar Association”, who were actually a group of individuals from the sugar trade.
And the Sugar Association not only funded the research for the study and hoped that it would result in their favor, but they ensured that it would.
The group did this by reviewing the scientific literature available at the time, telling the researchers which evidence they wanted reviewed, and going so far as to review drafts of the article before it was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Bad? Yes, not good.
To top things off, according to a report on CBC.ca, here’s what an employee of the sugar industry wrote to one of the study authors, following the completion of the research:
“Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind and we look forward to its appearance in print.”
Current reports don’t seem to indicate exactly how the members of “The Sugar Association” or “The Sugar Research Foundation,” as it’s being called some places, were connected with the sugar industry, but they had a tight rope.
Since the group bothered to come together and donate a prominent sum of money to a group of highly regarded researchers, simply to boost the general reputation of their product, it’s likely safe to assume that they came from someplace big. Probably from those companies we all know as household names.
Are they the only ones fueling conflicts of interest like this? Hardly. It’s true that people and groups from a very wide variety of industries fund research that actually benefits their cause all the time. This does happen. But it shouldn’t. The trouble is, no one is stopping it from happening, and so it continues, just like excessive lobbying in Washington.
But this case is pretty disturbing. Scientists, health officials, your doctor, your mom, your dad- people looked to this study for guidance on how to live and eat in order to live a longer, healthier life.
Admittedly, those caught are now trying to make amends. A new study just published in the esteemed journal JAMA Internal Medicine is now trying to clear things up and is coming clean about what transpired in 1965.
The Sugar Association, (I can’t stop imagining a bunch of guys in dark suits sitting around a table, drinking cocoa when I write that,) has even admitted to wrongdoing.
The group stated it “should have exercised greater transparency in all of its research activities,” but that it didn’t at the time because lying was the way to go about business in the 1960s, and nothing has changed. I mean, “disclosures were not the norm when the review was published.”
The takeaway? 1) Big business often isn’t clean business, and 2) it’s likely good to consume all kinds of food in moderation. Two things we already know.
And if someone tells you to eat 27 crackers with peanut butter a day, ask if they’ve ever heard of Kraft.