It is distressing to think that research is influenced by those with economic interests in the outcome, but it can hardly be considered surprising by now. An article from JAMA Internal Medicine yesterday highlights the sugar industries influence on research from 50 years ago, and the impact it continues to have today. In brief, the sugar industry pushed for outcomes that cleared sugar of culpability in coronary heart disease while shifting the blame to fat. An excerpt from the article:
“This 50-year-old incident may seem like ancient history, but it is quite relevant, not least because it answers some questions germane to our current era. Is it really true that food companies deliberately set out to manipulate research in their favor? Yes, it is, and the practice continues. In 2015, the New York Times obtained emails revealing Coca-Cola’s cozy relationships with sponsored researchers who were conducting studies aimed at minimizing the effects of sugary drinks on obesity. Even more recently, the Associated Press obtained emails showing how a candy trade association funded and influenced studies to show that children who eat sweets have healthier body weights than those who do not.”
The results of such studies have obvious implications for public health.
I’m in favor of people being able to make informed decisions about what they eat. Good information doesn’t necessarily guarantee that people will make good decisions, but people that want to make better choices cannot do so if they are being deliberately misinformed. Lots of people went after fat-free goodies not so long ago, not realizing that the increased sugar was just as likely (if not more likely) to cause them health problems. And, though there is some conflicting research in this regard, artificial sweeteners may not be that great for you either
The best bet to satisfy a sweet tooth is fruit, as fruits are accompanied by fiber and micro nutrients that your body actually needs, and actually make you feel full. It is hard work to get enough sugar from fruit to have long-term negative health benefits.
As for a healthy overall diet… we’ll save that discussion for another time.