Blog

Shaping Public Opinion through Research and Legislative Programs

The records, which number around 1,500, include hundreds of pages of letters and correspondence between scientists, nutritionists and sugar executives. The documents were found in the archives of now-defunct sugar companies, as well as in the library records of deceased university researchers who played key roles in the industry’s strategy.

The records reveal that as far back as 1964 — a time when researchers had begun suspecting a relationship between high-sugar diets and heart disease — John Hickson, a sugar industry executive, introduced a plan for how the sugar industry could influence public opinion “through our research and information and legislative programs.”

As reported in the featured article: Hickson proposed countering the alarming findings on sugar with industry funded research. “Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors,’ he wrote.”

This idea is what led to the hiring of Hegsted and two other Harvard scientists to review and debunk the studies linking sugary diets with heart disease. “I think it’s appalling,” Nestle told The New York Times… “You just never see examples that are this blatant.”

Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, also noted that the documents are a potent reminder of “why research should be supported by public funding rather than depending on industry funding.” Unfortunately, it will take a lot to make such a shift. Even clamping down on conflicts of interest is turning out to be difficult. As Nestle told Bloomberg.

“I, for example, have been told repeatedly that since I wrote ‘Food Politics,’ I am ineligible to serve on federal advisory committees because I am too biased. What this tells me is that people who on principle refuse to take food industry funding are excluded from the candidate pool. But people who do take industry funding are considered acceptable as long as they disclose their financial ties appropriately which, unfortunately, many do not.”

Sugar Industry Responds

Meanwhile, the Sugar Association remains steadfast in its course, responding to Kearns’ paper by saying. “We question this author’s continued attempts to reframe historical occurrences to conveniently align with the currently trending anti-sugar narrative, particularly when the last several decades of research have concluded that sugar does not have a unique role in heart disease.”

It’s interesting to note that the sugar industry’s primary defense is to lean on a “scientific foundation” of research tainted by their own conclusions! Take their response to British nutritionist John Yudkin’s work for example. In 1972, Yudkin published the book, “Pure White and Deadly,” in which he presented decades of research pointing at dietary sugar — rather than fat — as the underlying factor in obesity and diabetes.

In response, the Sugar Association secretly funded a white paper called “Sugar in the Diet of Man,” which claimed sugar was not only safe and healthy, but an important “energy” food. “Scientists Dispel Sugar Fears,” reads the headline of the Sugar Association’s press release. And, while they funded the paper in question, they made it appear to be an independent study.

The Sugar Association’s biggest apologist was Ancel Keys, Ph.D., who, with industry funding, helped destroy Yudkin’s reputation by discrediting him and labeling him a quack. The smear campaign was a huge success, bringing sugar research to a screeching halt. Like the tobacco and chemical industries, those who profit from sugar have become very adept at crushing dissenting voices, including those in the halls of science.

By silencing sugar critics, the sugar industry was able to continue the promotion of saturated fat as the dietary villain, despite its lack of scientific support. The 21st century brought super-sized sodas along with super-sized health problems, and the food industry continues to look the other way — hoping you won’t catch on to the truth.

Just as Big Tobacco angled to place the blame for cancer elsewhere, Big Sugar has scrambled for cover, borrowing Big Tobacco tactics such as undermining science, intimidating scientists and subverting public health policy.

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

According to a 2014 study, more than 7 out of 10 American adults get at least 10 percent of their daily calories from added sugar; 1 in 10 will get 25 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugars. It also found that…

People who consumed 21 percent or more of their daily calories in the form of sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who got 7 percent or less of their daily calories from added sugar

The risk nearly tripled among those who got 25 percent or more of their calories from sugar.

More recent research shows that high-sugar diets are also a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease in children — and pose a significant risk even far below current levels of consumption. As noted in the latest scientific statement on children’s sugar consumption from the American Heart Association (AHA)

“Strong evidence supports the association of added sugars with increased cardiovascular disease risk in children through increased energy intake, increased adiposity, and dyslipidemia … It is reasonable to recommend that children consume 25 grams (100 calories or 6 teaspoons) of added sugars per day and to avoid added sugars for children just under 2 years of age.”

According to the AHA, kids eat on average 19 teaspoons of added sugar a day — about three times more than recommended, and the evidence clearly indicates that this dietary trend goes hand-in-hand with our current epidemic of obesity and chronic disease. A single can of soda or fruit punch can contain about 40 grams of added sugar, making sweetened drinks particularly risky for young children.

Breakfast cereals, cereal bars, bagels and pastries also tend to contain high amounts of added sugars. For the longest time, there was no real cutoff recommendation for sugar, aside from recommendations to eat sugar “in moderation” — something that is virtually impossible to do if you’re eating processed foods. Thankfully, this is finally changing. The AHA now recommends limiting daily added sugar intake to:

  • 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men
  • 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women
  • 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for toddlers and teens between the ages of 2 and 18
  • Zero added sugars for kids under the age of 2.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has also issued sugar recommendations, suggesting kids between the ages of 4 and 8 limit their added sugar to a maximum of 3 teaspoons a day (12 grams), and children age 9 and older stay below 8 teaspoons. While we here a Bionic Sports Nutrition agree with the 25 gram max as a general recommendation for healthy people, in our view, virtually everyone no matter your age, would benefit from the under age 2 recommendation.

Tips for Reducing Your Added Sugar Intake

One of the easiest and most rapid ways to dramatically cut down on your added sugar and fructose consumption is to simply eat real food, as most of the added sugar you end up with comes from processed foods. Other ways to cut down on the sugar in your diet includes…

Aiming to eliminate sugar you personally add to your food and drinks or consume in the form of processed foods and sweetened beverages.

Try using Stevia or Luo Han instead of sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Using fresh fruit in lieu of canned fruit or sugar for meals or recipes that are calling for a bit of sweetness, using fresh spices instead of sugar to add flavor to your meals will make all the difference in your overall health!

Find out why athletes choose our top rated national® sports nutrition products
Learn More