A research article published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization provides a textual analysis of sugar industry influence on WHO’s 2015 sugars intake guideline.
Spoiler: “there was little change between draft and final version of the WHO sugars intake guidelines following industry consultation.” Kudos to WHO on being resistant to industry influence.
The article has many interesting tidbits about common industry tactics to actively fight science.
- “In 2003, WHO released a joint report which, for the first time, called for a reduction in sugar intake to under 10% of total dietary energy consumption. The Sugar Association wrote that it would “exercise every avenue available to expose the dubious nature” of WHO’s report on diet and nutrition and would challenge WHO’s funding from the United States of America, which was $406 million in 2003. The Sugar Association erroneously claimed that the report was written by selected experts and was not peer-reviewed and that industry did not have an opportunity to comment.”
- “To identify the tactics used by the sugar industry, we carried out a qualitative analysis of its submissions. Several methods were employed.”
- “One tactic involved direct attacks on the implications of the evidence.”
- “Another was to set unrealistic expectations for scientific research. The results of observational studies were discounted by arguing that confounding was “certain”. For example, the tobacco industry contributed to guidance on what was termed “good epidemiology practice”, which involved rejecting observational research that found a relative risk less than 2 — thereby excluding all research on passive smoking.”
- “A third tactic was to divert attention to other risk factors, such as lack of physical activity, which excused the sugar industry from responsibility.”
- “A fourth method, which is widely used by the alcohol industry, was to shift attention from measures to reduce sugar consumption towards measures to avoid harm: for example, the prevention of dental caries by water fluoridation and the use of fluoride toothpaste.”
- “Some aspects of WHO’s policy-making process may protect it against industry influence. WHO commissions independent systemic reviews of the evidence, which are more carefully scrutinized for conflicts of interest than reviews commissioned by peer-reviewed journals.”