In an article published by The New York Times on Monday, newly released documents from the 1960s show that the sugar industry paid scientists to play down the link between sugar and heart disease.

Saturated fats, rather than sugar, became the main culprit of heart disease.

A researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, recently discovered the documents. The documents, first published in JAMA Internal Medicine, show that the sugar industry has shaped nearly five decades of research.

In 1967, a publication linked fat and heart disease. The documents show a group called the Sugar Research Foundation, now known as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists today’s equivalent of about $50,000 to publish it. The Sugar Research Foundation handpicked many of the studies used by the researchers. It was then published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. The information published reduced the link between sugar and heart health and instead, focused on the role of saturated fat.

You may be thinking, this was 50 years ago; surely we have learned more truths about the effects of sugar? Well, think again. According to The New York Times, “more recent reports show that the food industry has continued to influence nutrition science.”

In fact, revealed just last year was that Coca-Cola had done something similar. They had funded millions in research who wanted to downplay links between sugary drinks and obesity.

Earlier this summer, The Associated Press reported that studies showing children who ate candy tended to weigh less than those who did not. Candy makers were funding these studies.

How Did They Get Away with it For So Long?

Unfortunately, at the time, medical journals did not required studies to disclose their funding sources. The Sugar Association is defending industry-funded research as playing an important and informative role in scientific debate. It went on to state that several decades of research had concluded that sugar “does not have a unique role in heart disease.”

However, these decades worth of publications played a large part in Americans opting for foods that were low in fat, but often high in sugar. Many experts now blame this thinking for fueling the obesity crisis.

While we still see saturated fat as a driver of heart disease, the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization, and other health authorities have begun to warn that too much added sugar may increase cardiovascular disease risk.

Cristin E. Kearns, a postdoctoral fellow at UCSF, discovered the documents. They showed that in 1964, John Hickson, a top sugar industry executive, discussed a plan with others in the industry to shift public opinion “through our research and information and legislative programs.”

The correspondence between the Harvard researchers and Hickson showed that he paid them $6,500, the equivalent to $49,000 today. This was to allow him input on the publication of the research. Hickson approved the early drafts from researchers. The drafts focused on implicating saturated fat as a main cause of heart disease, while lessening sugar. 

Be Aware of Your Sugar Intake

It’s no surprise that high amounts of sugar aren’t good for us, but you might be consuming more than you realize. Sugar has become a main ingredient in a lot of foods that might surprise you, leading to you and your family consuming higher numbers than you are aware of.

Surprising foods like pasta sauce, soups, fat-free salad dressings, and multi-grain cereals and crackers contain added sugar. It’s important to read the labels of the foods you purchase for your family. Many of these store bought products that contain sugar are easily made at home with very little effort. This mean you get complete control over what is actually going into your family’s bodies.

For instance, peanut butter is easily made at home in just a few minutes. And you don’t have to give up the sugary peanut butter taste if you add just a bit of Lite&Sweet xylitol/erythritol sweetener.  Sugar free balsamic dressing and pasta sauce are also easily and cheaply made at home, rather than purchasing them at the store where they may contain high amounts of sugar plus preservatives. And of course, desserts are easily made just as sweet by switching out the sugar for a xylitol/erythritol sweetener. This is easily done because xylitol as a 1:1 ratio to sugar.

So feel good about what you’re putting into your body and use a xylitol/erythritol sweetener instead.

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The New York Times – How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat
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