Consumer advocates, nutritional geeks and Atkins freaks really love to speculate about how the "evil industry" influences with lobbying and dubious financial subsidies in politics, science and society in order to maximize their profits at the expense of consumers and their health.
Unfortunately, such machinations are often very difficult to prove or understand: By its nature, these kind of manipulations are kept very secret and happen in the background.
Recent Study from Archival Documents
A significant amount of fuel, was dumped on the fire of such conspiracy theorists on September 13 2016, since a study was published on that day, which suggest just that: Conspiracy and Manipulation by the Sugar Industry. The authors of that study have compiled a number of documents from the 60s and 70s, which show in detail how the Sugar Industry in the United States systematically downplayed the risks of sugar for cardiovascular disorders and at the same time upgraded the role of cholesterol and saturated fat in cardiac research in order to promote their interests and profit making.
The paper published in the „Journal of the American Medical Association“ (JAMA) called, "Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research – A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents" (download below) reads like a Agatha Christie thriller: like detectives, the authors scrambled through the archives of the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) and accumulated hundreds of documents and correspondence to re-construct in acribic detail how the SFR influenced scientific research in the sixties and seventies in a systematic fashion to promote their own interests.
Things kind of started in the fifties with the fact that the incidence of cardiovascular diseases was rapidly increasing and therefore science research was highly interested to deal with the issue and find the cause thereof.
In the 60s, there were 2 camps among scientists: one led by British nutritionist John Yudkin (see image on the right), who blamed sugar, also since the consumption of sugar sky rocketed upwards during this area. He published his book "Pure, White and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It" to draw attention to this problem.
The other camp around Ancel Keyes rather had saturated fat and cholesterol in suspicion. He was the author of the famous Seven Countries Study and had a central role in today's (or better yesterday´s) "fat is bad" convention, which slowly, but surely is playing out to be totally wrong.
Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and coauthors examined internal documents from the SRF, which later evolved into the Sugar Association, historical reports and other material to create a chronological case study. The documents included correspondence between the SRF and a Harvard University professor of nutrition who was codirector of the SRF's first coronary heart disease research program in the 1960s.
The Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) commissioned Project 226, a literature review written by researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Nutrition Department, which concluded there was “no doubt” that the only dietary intervention required to prevent coronary heart disease was to reduce dietary cholesterol and substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat in the American diet. The sugar industry paid the Harvard scientist the equivalent of $50,000 in 2016 dollars.
“The literature review helped shape not only public opinion on what causes heart problems but also the scientific community’s view of how to evaluate dietary risk factors to heart disease,” said lead author Cristin Kearns, who discovered the industry documents.
Other documents showed the sugar industry became concerned in 1962 with evidence showing that a low-fat diet high in sugar could elevate serum cholesterol level. In 1964, the SRF vice president and director of research, John Hickson, said new research on coronary heart disease found that “sugar is a less desirable dietary source of calories than other carbohydrates,” and referred to the work since 1957 of British physiologist John Yudkin, who challenged population studies singling out saturated fat as the primary dietary cause of coronary heart disease “and suggested other factors, including sucrose, were at least equally important.”
“Hickson proposed that SRF ‘could embark on a major program’ to counter Yudkin and other ‘negative attitudes toward sugar,’” stated the study. It found that Hickson recommended an opinion poll “to learn what public concepts we should reinforce and what ones we need to combat through our research and information and legislation programs,” a symposium to “bring detractors before a board of their peers where their fallacies could be unveiled,” and recommended the sugar industry fund coronary heart disease research to “see what the weak points there are in the experimentation, and replicate the studies with appropriate corrections. Then publish the data and refute our detractors.”
As of 2016, sugar control policies are being promulgated in international, federal, state and local venues. Yet CHD risk is inconsistently cited as a health consequence of added sugars consumption. Because CHD is the leading cause of death globally, the health community should ensure that CHD risk is evaluated in future risk assessments of added sugars. Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry-funded studies, and include mechanistic and animal studies as well as studies appraising the effect of added sugars on multiple CHD biomarkers and disease development," the article concludes.