People have linked sugar to dental cavities for the longest time, but in the 1960s, research was starting to emerge that sugar and fat might be linked to heart disease. The sugar industry saw this as an opportunity to vilify fat as the cause of heart disease, while simultaneously promoting the increased use of sugar in order to replace the flavor that was lost with the removal of fat from foods.
In order to accomplish this goal, the sugar industry, in the guise of the Sugar Research Foundation (better known today as the Sugar Association), paid a couple of well regarded Harvard nutritionists to create a review of current scientific literature about sugar, promoting studies that showed the sugar might not be the culprit, while demoting studies that showed it could be responsible for heart disease. The conclusion of their review was that fat and cholesterol might be the culprits behind heart disease. The scientists never disclosed these payments and their conflict of interest.
The sugar industry took this research and ran with it, creating campaigns that negatively impacted public perceptions of fat, creating a demand for low fat foods. The reduction of fat in foods was accompanied by an increase of sugar. The sugar industry was victorious.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Dr. Cristin Kearns, who, as fate would have it, is a dentist uncovered the correspondence between these scientists and the sugar industry. This discovery called into question the motivation behind the researchers and validity of their literature review.
Over half a century later, though, the damage is already done. While in previous decades there was talk of water fluoridation making dental cavities a thing of the past, it’s now decades later and people are still getting cavities. Coincidentally, sugar consumption is at one of the highest levels in the history of humanity. On top of al this, heart disease is still the number one killer in the US.
Next time you come across a sugary treat or come across a low fat food in the supermarket, remember what the sugar industry and two unscrupulous scientists did to make this happen.