In the 1960s, the sugar industry moneyed research study that minimized the risks of sugar and highlighted the dangers of fat, according to a freshly released short article in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The short article draws on internal documents to show that an industry group called the Sugar Research Foundation wanted to “refute” concerns about sugar’s possible function in heart disease. The SRF then sponsored research study by Harvard researchers that did just that. The outcome was released in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, without any disclosure of the sugar industry funding.
The sugar-funded job in concern was a literature evaluation, analyzing a variety of research studies and experiments. It suggested there were major issues with all the research studies that implicated sugar, and concluded that cutting fat out of American diet plans was the very best way to resolve coronary heart problem.
The authors of the new post say that for the previous five decades, the sugar market has been attempting to affect the scientific debate over the relative threats of sugar and fat.
” It was an extremely clever thing the sugar market did, because review documents, specifically if you get them published in a very prominent journal, tend to shape the total scientific conversation,” co-author Stanton Glantz informed The New York Times.
Loan on the line
In the short article, published Monday, authors Glantz, Cristin Kearns and Laura Schmidt aren’t attempting make the case for a link in between sugar and coronary heart disease. Their interest is in the procedure. They state the files reveal the sugar market trying to influence scientific inquiry and debate.
The scientists note that they worked under some limitations– “We might not interview crucial stars involved in this historic episode due to the fact that they have passed away,” they compose. Other organizations were likewise advocating concerns about fat, they keep in mind.
There’s no proof that the SRF directly modified the manuscript released by the Harvard scientists in 1967, but there is “circumstantial” proof that the interests of the sugar lobby formed the conclusions of the review, the researchers state.
For one thing, there’s motivation and intent. In 1954, the scientists keep in mind, the president of the SRF provided a speech explaining a great company opportunity.
If Americans could be persuaded to eat a lower-fat diet plan– for the sake of their health– they would need to change that fat with something else. America’s per capita sugar intake could go up by a third.
However in the ’60s, the SRF became conscious of “flowing reports that sugar is a less preferable dietary source of calories than other carbs,” as John Hickson, SRF vice president and director of research study, put it in one file.
He recommended that the market fund its own research studies– “Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors.”
The next year, after several scientific articles were released suggesting a link between sucrose and coronary heart problem, the SRF authorized the literature-review task. It ended up paying roughly $50,000 in today’s dollars for the research.
Among the researchers was the chairman of Harvard’s Public Health Nutrition Department– and an ad hoc member of SRF’s board.
” A different standard” for various studies
Glantz, Kearns and Schmidt state a lot of the articles examined in the review were hand-selected by SRF, and it was indicated that the sugar market would expect them to be critiqued.
In a letter, SRF’s Hickson stated that the company’s “particular interest” was in examining research studies focused on “carbohydrates through sucrose.”
” We are aware,” one of the researchers replied, “and will cover this as well as we can.”
The project wound up taking longer than anticipated, since increasingly more research studies were being launched that suggested sugar might be connected to coronary cardiovascular disease. But it was lastly released in 1967.
Hickson was definitely happy with the outcome: “Let me ensure you this is quite what we wanted and we eagerly anticipate its look in print,” he told one of the researchers.
The evaluation minimized the significance of research that recommended sugar could contribute in coronary heart disease. In some cases the scientists alleged private investigator incompetence or flawed method.
” It is constantly appropriate to question the validity of private studies,” Kearns told Bloomberg via email. However, she states, “the authors used a various requirement” to various studies– looking extremely seriously at research that implicated sugar, and disregarding issues with research studies that found threats in fat.
Epidemiological studies of sugar consumption– which take a look at patterns of health and illness in the real life– were dismissed for having a lot of possible elements getting in the way. Speculative research studies were dismissed for being too different to real life.
One study that discovered a health benefit when individuals consumed less sugar and more vegetables was dismissed because that dietary change was not feasible.
Another research study, in which rats were given a diet low in fat and high in sugar, was declined since “such diet plans are rarely taken in by guy.”
The Harvard researchers then relied on studies that took a look at dangers of fat– that included the exact same kind of epidemiological research studies they had dismissed when it pertained to sugar.
Pointing out “few research study characteristics and no quantitative outcomes,” as Kearns, Glantz and Schmidt put it, they concluded that cutting out fat was “no doubt” the best dietary intervention to prevent coronary heart problem.
Sugar lobby: “Transparency requirements were not the standard”
In a declaration, the Sugar Association– which progressed from the SRF– said it is challenging to comment on events from so long ago.
” We acknowledge that the Sugar Research Foundation should have worked out higher transparency in all of its research activities, nevertheless, when the research studies in concern were released financing disclosures and openness standards were not the standard they are today,” the association said.
” Generally speaking, it is not only unfortunate however a disservice that industry-funded research study is branded as tainted,” the statement continues. “What is frequently missing from the discussion is that industry-funded research has been useful in dealing with essential concerns.”
The files in concern are 5 years old, but the larger problem is of the minute, as Marion Nestle keeps in mind in a commentary in the exact same concern of JAMA Internal Medicine:
” Is it truly true that food business deliberately set out to control research in their favor? Yes, it is, and the practice continues. In 2015, the New York Times got emails exposing Coca-Cola’s comfortable relationships with sponsored researchers who were carrying out research studies focused on decreasing the effects of sugary drinks on obesity. Even more recently, the Associated Press got emails demonstrating how a candy trade association funded and influenced research studies to reveal that kids who consume sweets have healthier body weights than those who do not.”
As for the post authors who went into the files around this funding, they use 2 tips for the future.
“Policymaking committees need to consider offering less weight to food industry-funded research studies,” they write.
They likewise call for new research into any ties between added sugars and coronary heart disease.
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