Most of us know sugar is bad for us. That doesn’t stop companies from marketing to our vulnerable minds and eager taste buds.
A study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association stating that years ago, Harvard researchers were paid to mislead results of their study. The researchers were to show fat is a more concerning cause of heart disease and leave out sugar. The results of this compromised study may have influenced the way we were told to eat for decades and even still today, much to the benefit of the sugar industry.
It is not difficult to manipulate the wording, results, or methods in a study to change the appearance of results. Researchers can manipulate the results of a study or experiment, such as not including certain outliers in their data, to support their predetermined ideas. Though it is unethical, big companies will pay for what they want people to be told. Of course this is not always the case but just because research has been done does not mean that it is trustworthy – you should always dig a little deeper yourself. The headlines presented in popular media can mislead us in this way as well. A lot of time the information presented in an article title or headline is meant to attract your interest over accurately communicating the finding of a study. Though the information may be true, the context is often just as important.
According to this paper, this is not the only agenda the sugar industry was promoting. They also affected the recommendations given to us on reducing cavities and downplaying the reduction of sugar as an important prevention method. It is also stated that diabetes educational materials do not even talk about reducing sugar when sugar is known to have a huge role in this disease. Overall, the proper information is not always being shared with us.
The study in question is “Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research: A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents” by C. Kearns, L. Schmidt, and S. Glantz. Kearns was also in an NPR Interview that you can listen to.
They reviewed documents from the Sugar Research Foundation and found some interesting things. The findings stated that it was intended to single out fat as the reason we get heart disease, not sugar. The president of the foundation tried to get us to eat lower fat diets to increase the purchasing of sugar products. Sugar is included in any overly processed food such as breads, pastas, cookies, cakes, bars, cereals, low-fat products like yogurt, or any packaged products in the middle of the grocery store. It is in more products than you think. Most companies that produce processed foods have to buy sugar to make their food taste better, which is an easy decision because sugar is cheap and that equals more profit for them.
Why does this matter to us?
The focus of important research turned more towards fats in relation to heart disease. Over the years the sugar industry shifted people’s dietary decisions towards low-fat and therefore, making more money. With these low-fat products driving the market, it forces companies to make products that require sugar to replace the fat in their recipes. People will then buy things like breads and pastas and avoid butters and meat. Recommendations given such as our Food Pyramid suggest 6-11 servings of grains per day including these sugar-filled products. The sugar industry benefits and people become more sick and unhealthy due to ignorance.
More recently, research is actually showing that low fat diets with high sugar actually elevate cholesterol level. These studies threaten sales of sugar. Though it is pounded into our “knowledge” that fat is bad, people are not changing eating habits very easily. Some researchers actually think that fats cause heart disease. Why might that be? In the years after all this research started, vegetable oils were being introduced and people were told to use them rather than the traditional fats to avoid the big bad saturated fats. These unnatural oils are full of inflammatory fats and likely put fat in favor of a cause of disease when studying people who unknowingly eat more of these types of fats. See here when I wrote about healthful fats.
Important results in reviewing the research:
- Blood glucose level is a better predictor of plaque in the arteries than cholesterol
- Sugar increases triglycerides
- Adding fat or starch instead of sugars improved triglycerides
- Adding starch or legumes instead of sugar improved cholesterol
It is common sense by now that sugar is not a necessary part of our diet, but fat is. Why would we ever go against something that is vital to our body?
So what do we do?
The best thing I can tell you to do is to eat real food. This is the only way that you will be at less risk for any disease. Anything commercially made or processed can bring unwanted side effects we have no idea about. Nutrition is difficult to research because there are so many variables. Studies on animals don’t help much because they aren’t eating or moving like we currently are. Keep yourself aware of the headlines and don’t believe it right away if it doesn’t make sense. There are a lot of crazy claims out there. Also, we clearly know sugar is bad for us and is certainly causing some issues.
Another article related:
Fresh Reads: Sugar is bad for you and research can be conflicting.