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The Sugar Industry Made Sure Fat was the Enemy

September 16, 2016
Plain English Version


Fifty years ago the sugar industry paid researchers to study sugar and fat. The focus of the studies was the role played by sugar and fat in heart disease.

The industry picked certain researchers. They were men who already believed that saturated fat was a danger to health. The industry told the researchers what they expected them to find.

In the end, the scientists told the sugar industry members what they wanted to hear. They said saturated fat was the “enemy.”

One of the lead scientists in the studies told the industry of his findings. He said, “Let me assure you this is quite what we had in mind. We look forward to its appearance in print.” By citing saturated fat, they excused the role of sugar.

The sugar/fat studies were part of an industry paid-for campaign. People were saying sugar was a problem. Other scientists were looking at cholesterol and fats. The goal was to shift the blame for heart disease from sugar to saturated fat. It was part of the marketing of the sugar industry.

A scientist recently said, “By today’s standards they behaved very badly.”

Medical journals published the studies. For a long time after, low-fat diets became popular as America went on a binge of eating low-fat foods. And a binge of eating sugar. Today, scientists say sugar plays a big role in obesity and diabetes.

The studies came at the dawn of concern about diet and nutrition. In fact, the scientists involved with the studies went on to become leaders in the field.

It was common in the old days for industries to pay for studies about their products. It still is common today. The difference now is in the role of disclosure. The public knows when a company such as Coca-Cola pays for a study. Well, it usually knows.

Source: The New York Times September 12, 2016

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