Exposed: Sweet Lies from the Sugar Industry

Misleading May, 1971 ad in LIFE magazine ad encouraging sugar intake

The November/December issue of Mother Jones magazine has an explosive new analysis of more than 1,500 pages of internal documents from the archives of now-defunct sugar companies that reveals that for 40 years, the sugar industry engaged in a massive PR campaign to sow doubt about studies linking sugar consumption to disease.  After a growing body of independent research started implicating sugar as a significant cause of heart disease, tooth decay, diabetes and other diseases, the sugar industry responded by developing a PR scheme that included secretly funding scientists to perform studies exonerating sugar as a source of disease. The sugar industry also secretly created a front group, the Food and Nutrition Advisory Council, that they stocked with physicians and dentists who were willing to defend sugar’s purported place in a healthy diet.  Sugar companies also worked to shift the conversation about diabetes away from sugar and boost the notion that dietary fats, especially saturated fats, were a bigger culprit in causing heart disease than sugar.  One of Big Sugar’s biggest boosters was Frederick Stare, founder and chairman of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. Stare had a long history of ties to Big Sugar and brought in millions to Harvard by advocating for the sugar industry’s interests. Unsurprisingly, Stare also had ties to the tobacco industry. Documents show he also obtained funding for a study aimed at exonerating cigarettes and a cause of heart disease.  The document cache researchers examined includes memos, letters and board reports from now-deceased consultants and researchers for the sugar industry. They show that the industry has operated, and still operates, behind the scenes to make certain that regulators never set an official limit on the amount of sugar it is safe for Americans to consume. The blockbuster Mother Jones article, titled “Sweet Little Lies: Inside an industry’s campaign to frost its image, hold regulators at bay, and keep scientists from asking: Does sugar kill?,” is authored by Gary Taubes and Cristin Couzens. Taubes is the American science writer who authored the books Why we Get Fat and Good Calories, Bad Calories. Cristin Couzens is a Senior Consultant at the University of Colorado Center for Health Administration and an Acting Instructor at the University of Washington School of Dentistry. She writes the blog Sugar Politics.

Source: Mother Jones November/December 2012 issue

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