How the Sugar Industry Hoodwinked You about the Dangers of Sugar, Using Big Tobacco Tactics
December 01, 2012
By Dr. Mercola
When sugar consumption declined 12 percent in two years because people were beginning to look at sugar as fattening, and a potential cause of heart disease and diabetes, the sugar industry crafted a mammoth advertising campaign to bankroll scientific papers and hire lobbyists to ensure sugar would not be subject to legislative restriction.
Their decades-long effort is why the USDA's dietary guidelines only speak of sugar in vague generalities, and why a top sugar-industry consultant heads the FDA's sugar review panel, Mother Jones Magazine says.1
The featured article, co-authored by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens, exposes many dirty little secrets the sugar industry would rather you not know, so I recommend reading it in its entirety.2
"The story of sugar, as [President of the Sugar Association, John] Tatem told it, was one of a harmless product under attack by 'opportunists dedicated to exploiting the consuming public,'" they write.
"Over the subsequent decades, it would be transformed from what the New York Times in 1977 had deemed 'a villain in disguise' into a nutrient so seemingly innocuous that even the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association approved it as part of a healthy diet.
Research on the suspected links between sugar and chronic disease largely ground to a halt by the late 1980s, and scientists came to view such pursuits as a career dead end. So effective were the Sugar Association's efforts that, to this day, no consensus exists about sugar's potential dangers."
However, to assume that a lack of official consensus about its potential dangers equates to a lack of knowledge about the health impact of sugar would be a serious mistake. Through the groundbreaking work of researchers and respected medical professionals such as Dr. Richard Johnson and Dr. Robert Lustig, we are well aware of the serious health impacts of sugar, especially fructose.
Excess Sugar is the Best Way to Increase Your Body Fat
Since 1970, obesity rates in the United States have more than doubled and diabetes has tripled. Health officials are still fond of blaming increasing obesity rates on over-eating and under-exercising, which has the unfortunate effect of preventing any real progress, as the true causes remain ignored... In order to make any appreciable dent in the current trend, severe sugar and fructose restriction is an absolute must.
Granted, other food-related culprits such as genetically engineered grains have also been implicated, as they appear to adversely alter your body composition. Ditto for artificial sweeteners. Still, excessive consumption of fructose — primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is added to virtually all processed foods sold today — is likely the most exacerbating factor.
Why You Cannot Look to Industry for Answers
According to the featured article3, the reason why Americans are still largely clueless about the overwhelmingly negative impact sugar has on their health is due to Big Sugar's use of Big Tobacco-style tactics, which include manipulating the public and government agencies with slick propaganda that has virtually no basis in real science, and carefully covering up the reality of harm.
Amazingly, at one point during the mid-1950's, the Sugar Association even launched a successful PR campaign to sell sugar as a "sensible new approach to weight control."4 Yes, believe it or not, they were marketing sugar as a weight loss tool — just like artificial sweeteners are doing today, despite the fact that study after study keeps coming to the befuddling conclusion that artificial sweeteners make subjects gain MORE weight than regular sugar...
"...[A] growing body of research suggests that sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars," Taubes and Couzens write.
Indeed, according to some estimates the US health system spends about $150 billion a year on sugar-related diseases.5 With all this evidence of harm, how does the sugar industry get away scot free, time and time again? It's actually easier than you might think. All that is required is to maintain that "the science is inconclusive," no matter how clear or well executed it is. As detailed in the featured article:
"'In confronting our critics,' Tatem explained to his board of directors back in 1976, 'we try never to lose sight of the fact that no confirmed scientific evidence links sugar to the death-dealing diseases. This crucial point is the lifeblood of the association.'"
Scientific fraud and/or the misuse of science to further a preconceived commercial agenda is so rampant today that it can be quite tricky to determine what's what. One key factor you'd be wise to consider is who paid for the study? It's well-established that the source of funding can significantly skew research results, as those who pay generally want the research to be of benefit to them, one way or another. Truly independent research that is not funded or executed by any person or group with a financial stake or interest in the results is, generally speaking, the most trustworthy. Although sometimes you may have to do some sleuthing to determine whether the research might have hidden ties or agendas.
The featured article offers a perfect example of this:
"...via the Sugar Association proper, they [American sugar companies] would spend roughly $655,000 between 1975 and 1980 on 17 studies designed, as internal documents put it, 'to maintain research as a main prop of the industry's defense.'
Each proposal was vetted by a panel of industry-friendly scientists and a second committee staffed by representatives from sugar companies and 'contributing research members' such as Coca-Cola, Hershey's, General Mills, and Nabisco. Most of the cash was awarded to researchers whose studies seemed explicitly designed to exonerate sugar. One even proposed to explore whether sugar could be shown to boost serotonin levels in rats' brains, and thus 'prove of therapeutic value, as in the relief of depression,' an internal document noted.
...In short, rather than do definitive research to learn the truth about its product, good or bad, the association stuck to a PR scheme designed to 'establish with the broadest possible audience — virtually everyone is a consumer — the safety of sugar as a food.' One of its first acts was to establish a Food & Nutrition Advisory Council consisting of a half-dozen physicians and two dentists willing to defend sugar's place in a healthy diet..."
HFCS Lawsuit Gets Sticky
The featured article continues detailing how the sugar industry has managed to undermine both science and common sense in its scheme to keep business rolling. Again, it's an enlightening read. The same, however, cannot be said for a related news piece reported by foodnavigator.com.
An ongoing legal dispute between the sugar industry and the corn refiners industry is becoming increasingly entertaining, as both sides accuse the other of hypocrisy... According to Food Navigator:6
"In court documents filed in LA... leading sugar refiners asked a judge to dismiss a counter-claim filed in September by the corn refiners alleging that the sugar industry has been engaged in a 'systematic campaign' to vilify HFCS. "
While the corn industry accuses the sugar industry of publishing "literally false" articles on its website, the Sugar Association defends its publications, stating they're protected under the First Amendment as free speech. The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) struck back saying the Sugar Association was patently hypocritical in its sudden invocation of free speech, "given how hard they have tried to censor our consumer education program," president of the Corn Refiners Association Audrae Erickson told Food Navigator.
Adam Fox, a partner of the law firm representing the Sugar Association, in turn replied that this was "a perfect example of the pot calling the kettle black." It goes back and forth like this a few more times, and at no point is anyone made any wiser about the dangers of the falsehoods spread by BOTH industries.
Reducing Sugar and Fructose Consumption is KEY for Stemming Rising Obesity Rates
That something in our diet and way of life is terribly wrong can clearly be seen in our skyrocketing obesity statistics, and that "something" is sugar — in particular fructose in the form of HFCS, found in virtually every single processed food and beverage on the market. Foods you would never suspect to contain sugar can contain great amounts of it, including infant formula and even "designer" water!
Two out of three people in the U.S. are overweight and one out of three is obese, and the rest of the world is not far behind. Dr. Richard Johnson's new book The Fat Switch presents groundbreaking new research showing that eating too much and exercising too little are NOT the primary culprits responsible for out of control weight gain, and why so many people find it so difficult to shed those excess pounds.
His research shows that metabolic syndrome (characterized by central obesity or increased waist circumference, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance) is actually a normal condition that animals undergo to store fat. Animals' ability to gain "hibernation fat" appears to be regulated by a switch in the mitochondria that is turned on and off by a common food that no longer provides survival advantage to humans living in contemporary society, namely fructose.
Fructose-containing sugars cause weight gain not by the calories they contain, but by triggering this "fat switch," which tells your body it's time to store fat, just as if you were an animal preparing for hibernation. Furthermore, uric acid is increased by fructose, and also causally contributes to obesity and insulin resistance. Effective treatment of obesity therefore requires turning off your fat switch — by avoiding fructose, which is the trigger — and improving the function of your cells' mitochondria.
According to Dr. Johnson:
"Those of us who are obese eat more because of a faulty 'switch,' and exercise less because of a low energy state. If you can learn how to control the specific 'switch' located in the powerhouse of each of your cells – the mitochondria – you hold the key to fighting obesity."
To learn more, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Johnson's book, The Fat Switch which has been described as the "Holy Grail" for those struggling with their weight.