The sugar industry's role in heart disease research


When a prominent medical publication like The New England Journal of Medicine publishes a story that links a substance to a detrimental health condition, people take notice. Dietary and lifestyle changes are often based on this kind of research, which has the backing of the medical community and is relied upon for its thoroughness and transparency of the funding sources for the research. In the 1960s, however, the reporting was more opaque, and the source of the scientists' funding was not known. This led to shady dealings, reports The New York Times, which recently uncovered documents that show that the sugar industry successfully skewed the research into heart disease, laying the blame solely on the role of saturated fats. 

Newly acquired documents reveal that the forerunner to today's Sugar Association paid the equivalent of $50,000 USD to several Harvard researchers to review several studies about diet and heart disease. The industry group cherry-picked the studies and made it clear to the researchers the outcome they desired. The final article comported with the group's wishes, minimizing any role of sugar in heart disease and instead pointing the finger at saturated fats. 

This isn't the first time that the sugar industry has influenced research. Last year, The NYT also reported on soft-drink giant Coca-Cola's substantial investment in research downplaying the role between sugar and obesity. Watchdog groups proclaim these examples are but a few of the reasons that health research should be conducted by public institutions instead of private entities. At least now most journals require all articles to indicate who funded the studies or reviews, although some industry groups may hide behind innocuous sounding names. 

Photo of How to make cinnamon sugar from indexed blog Leite's Culinaria


  • sir_ken_g  on  9/13/2016 at 9:52 AM

    They are far from the only ones.

  • goodfruit  on  9/14/2016 at 4:54 PM

    Yes, yes, but how many of us believed it? I've known for over 20 years about these types of things. They can skew things however they like but they are not the lone voice out there. My advice is to read The Economist and whatever European Journal articles you come across.

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