New Study Reveals the Sugar Industry Manipulated Heart Research More Than 50 Years Ago

September 13, 2016 5:45 pm  |  Comments: 6  | Views: 15722

New research reveals that the sugar industry funded studies in the early 1960s that downplayed sugar’s critical role in heart disease, while instead placing the blame on fats. This is the latest example of  food and beverage makers attempting to shape public understanding of nutrition, with this recent revelation proving that a dangerous and erroneous cornerstone of 20th-century American nutrition was funded by the sugar industry in a self-serving attempt to bias heart disease research.

According to the new paper published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine by UC San Francisco researchers, an analysis of newly uncovered correspondences between a sugar trade group and Harvard researchers reveal that the sugar industry worked with scientists in the 1950s and 1960s to downplay sucrose’s role in causing coronary heart disease and other nutritional risks in efforts to increase people’s sucrose consumption. This coordinated tactic by the Sugar Research Foundation — now known as the Sugar Association —  resulted in fat and cholesterol being singled out as the biggest problems in American diets and the main cause of heart disease, while leaving out the considerable role sugary foods play.

A new study released Monday details how the sugar industry worked to downplay emerging science linking sugar and heart disease. (Image Credit: ABC News)

A new study released Monday details how the sugar industry worked to downplay emerging science linking sugar and heart disease. (Image Credit: ABC News)

After analyzing more than 340 public archive documents, the UCSF researchers discovered that in 1964, the Sugar Research Foundation internally discussed a campaign to address “negative attitudes toward sugar” after studies began emerging linking sugar with heart disease. The following year the group approved “Project 226,” which entailed paying Harvard researchers the modern equivalent of $50,000 for a scientific article that argued cholesterol — not sucrose — was the sole relevant factor in studying and preventing coronary heart disease.

The resulting literature review was published in 1967, although the funding was not disclosed at the time. The article concluded there was “no doubt” that reducing cholesterol and saturated fat was the only dietary intervention needed to prevent heart disease. As such, this 1967 paper ended up playing a major role in making low-fat diets the nutritional norm in the U.S.

“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 for heart disease,” lead author Cristin Kearns said in a statement.

As the low-fat diet trend took hold of the U.S., the sugar industry thrived during the later half of the last century. Food makers began replacing fat with sugar — which is exactly what the industry had wanted. However, the research that condemned fat while ignoring the role of sugar is now widely seen as misguided and outdated. Although scientists are still working to understand links between diet and heart disease, concern has shifted in recent years to sugars, and away from fat.

Coca-Cola has been similarly accused of funding research that downplays the role of sugar-sweetened drinks in the modern obesity crisis. (Image Credit: Business Insider)

Coca-Cola has been similarly accused of funding research that downplays the role of sugar-sweetened drinks in the modern obesity crisis. (Image Credit: Business Insider)

While the UCSF paper studied the sugar industry’s influence on nutritional research in the 1950s and 60s, concerns that food makers still play an oversized role in scientific research remain today.

“We have to ask ourselves how many lives and dollars could have been saved, and how different today’s health picture would be, if the industry were not manipulating science in this way,” said Jim Krieger, executive director of Health Food America, in a comment after the paper was published earlier this week. “Only 50 years later are we waking up to the true harm from sugar. Yet industry continues to use its time-honored tactics of creating doubt about valid science they deem damaging to its bottom line and deflecting blame from their products.”

In response to the UCSF publication, the Sugar Association released a statement acknowledging that they “should have exercised more transparency in all of its research activities.” However, the group also went on the defense, arguing that “industry-funded research has been informative in addressing key issues,” while also questioning the the UCSF authors “continued attempts to reframe historical occurrences” in order to play into the current public sentiment against sugar.

Sources: ABC News, Bloomberg


  • who can you trust with the foods out there. i understand that sugar as one buys it today is COW CHAR ( Forks over ) reference
    and only Organic Sugar is pure no fillers nor anything evil ins ide .

    i only buy now Organic Sugar from Cosco or Health food markets.

    If the manufactures are lying and doing these kind of trails . we need to go back to do our own plantingin our back yards or join Organic coops where the buy who does this for the group has checked out the resources so she or he knows the sourcesall the food we buy from this coop is safe and healthy. otherwise were in these kind of hands and put our health in thier hands, out of control with ours.

  • Linda says:

    This news does not surprise me. In the last few years, it is well known that industries manipulate information to the public for their own gain. Americans are the fattest, sickest people because we trusted news and medical information for our health. We should have trusted our grand parents who ate food from the garden and not from the processed industry. Everything industry does is for the dollar, not or the consumer. For many of us Babyboomers, it is too late, but it is not too late for many of our children and grandchildren. We should do some research for ourselves and act accordingly. Industry’s pursuit of the dollar has costed America’s health. It was worth it for them, not for us. Our diet affects everything; our abilities, our work, our resolve to act, this country’s standing in the world and its future. What a sad commentary for this great country.

  • Paul says:

    Why would anyone be surprised. Since the birth of business, small, mid or big, the concept of ‘campaigning’ to increase sales and revenue has been going on forever. However, combining that with the scale of the sugar industry certainly puts this situation at the end of the extreme scale. Would America specifically be as obese as it is? Probably not. Would America be healthier overall than it is? Probably, however, if these types of reports favoring the sugar industry never did come out how much more fats and cholesterol might have been injested as a substitute and would would that picture of Americas health look like……?

  • Norman Bernal says:

    Very informational article that will guide the new and old generations into a better life style.

    • Daniel Smith says:

      Now also consider the impact of all the tobacco, alcohol and drug companies doing the very same thing and you start to understand how we became a nation filled with uninformed dependents with unhealthy habits. And when you factor in the private industry influence in our public school system, its a wonder there is any free thinking going on at all!

  • Ginny Gravelines says:

    My parents knew sugar was bad in the 1950’s and we weren’t allowed to have sodas or coke drinks, candy bars, sugar cereals, white bread and encouraged to have whole grain.breads, vegetables, fish, chicken, lean steak and fresh fruits which was easy in Florida. A high intake of sugar creates cravings for more sugar and my cousins consumed ten bottles of coke a day. Everything in moderation and don’t eat foods that have unproven enable ingredients and preservatives. I was 10 years old and developed the will power to avoid sugars but my sister didn’t and died of heart disease at 50 years and I am still alive in my 70’s. Great article, at least news got out gather 50-60 years. vWG

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