Newly uncovered documents (part of an ongoing project by former dentist Cristin Kearns and published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine) show how the sugar industry funded research that cast doubt on sugar’s role in heart disease.
Candice Choi of the Associated Press has more details.
- “In 1964, the group now known as the Sugar Association internally discussed a campaign to address “negative attitudes toward sugar” after studies began emerging linking sugar with heart disease, according to documents dug up from public archives. The following year the group approved “Project 226,” which entailed paying Harvard researchers today’s equivalent of $48,900 for an article reviewing the scientific literature, supplying materials they wanted reviewed, and receiving drafts of the article.”
- “The resulting article published in 1967 concluded there was “no doubt” that reducing cholesterol and saturated fat was the only dietary intervention needed to prevent heart disease. The researchers overstated the consistency of the literature on fat and cholesterol, while downplaying studies on sugar, according to the analysis.”
- “Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind and we look forward to its appearance in print,” wrote an employee of the sugar industry group to one of the authors.”
- “The sugar industry’s funding and role were not disclosed when the article was published by the New England Journal of Medicine. The journal, which did not require such disclosures at the time, began requesting author disclosures in 1984.”
- “A committee advising the federal government on dietary guidelines says the available evidence shows “no appreciable relationship” between the dietary cholesterol and heart disease, although it still recommended limiting saturated fats.”
- “The American Heart Association cites a study published in 2014 in saying that too much added sugar can increase risk of heart disease, though the authors of that study says the biological reasons for the link are not completely understood.”
- “The authors of the analysis note they were unable to interview key actors quoted in the documents because they are no longer alive. They also note there is no direct evidence the sugar industry wrote or changed the manuscript, that the documents provide a limited window into the activities of the sugar industry group and that the roles of other industries and nutrition leaders in shaping the discussion about heart disease were not studied.”
- “Nevertheless, they say the documents underscore why policy makers should consider giving less weight to industry-funded studies. Although funding disclosures are now common practice in the scientific community, the role sponsors play behind the scenes is still not always clear.”