New research published in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine found that scientists were paid by the sugar industry in the 1960s and 70s to downplay sugar’s (sucrose) health risks. Research fellow Cristi Kearns, of University of California, San Francisco, reviewed more than 1,500 internal documents, memos, reports and studies commissioned in the 1960s by the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), now the Sugar Association.
The documents reveal that the SRF paid three Harvard scientists tens of thousands of dollars to publish a review of sugar, fat and heart research in 1965 in the New England Journal of Medicine, with hand-picked studies that minimized the link between sugar and heart health, and vilified saturated fat and cholesterol.
In fact, fat has provided the perfect scapegoat and smokescreen for the sugar industry, which capitalized on the negative health risks of fat, while discrediting the science that connects sugar intake with cardiovascular and metabolic health problems.
One of the Harvard scientists, D. Mark Hegsted, later became the head of nutrition at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where in 1977 he helped draft a paper, “Sugar in the Diet of Man,” that would be influential to the federal government’s dietary guidelines. Another scientist was Fredrick J. Stare, chair of the Harvard University School of Public Health Nutrition Department, whose department accepted millions of dollars from sugar producers and beverage companies including Coca-Cola, Carnation, Kellogg and Gerber. Interestingly, Stare went on to help the tobacco industry fund research “aimed at exonerating cigarettes as a cause of heart disease.”
Kearns, who has been researching the sugar industry’s less than transparent practices for years, told Second Nexus, “When you get down into the details of the critiques, the [SRF study] authors applied double standards when they talked about the evidence related to fat
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