Thousands of studies spanning many decades show excess sugar damages your health, yet the sugar industry successfully buried the evidence and misdirected the public with manipulated science. According to the sugar industry, sugar is a harmless source of energy and may even be an important part of a healthy “balanced” diet.
Dr. Cristin Kearns, a dentist and fellow at the University of California, made headlines when she published a paper detailing the sugar industry’s historical influence on dietary recommendations. Evidence also shows how the sugar industry influenced the scientific agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research (now the National Institute of Dental and Cranial Research), which back in 1971 created a national caries program, downplaying any links between sugar consumption and dental caries.
The records unearthed by Kearns reveal that as far back as 1964 — a time when researchers had begun suspecting a relationship between high-sugar diets and heart disease — John Hickson, a sugar industry executive, introduced a plan for how to influence public opinion. Using the same tactics employed by the tobacco industry, Hickson’s plan was to counter adverse findings with industry-funded research, along with directed “information and legislative programs.” “Then we can publish the data and refute our detractors,” he wrote.
One of the strategies used to deflect accusations that sugar caused disease was to shift the blame to saturated fat. In the early 1970s, the sugar industry faced proposed sugar legislation that would impose limits on the sweet stuff.
They also worried about the potential impact of “Pure White and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It,” a book published in 1972 by British nutritionist John Yudkin, in which he presented decades of research pointing at dietary sugar, not fat, as the underlying factor in obesity and diabetes.
As proposed by Hickson, the sugar industry countered Yudkin’s work with a secretly funded white paper called “Sugar in the Diet of Man,” which claimed sugar was not only safe but actually important for health. Again, the key to success laid in preventing a consensus from taking root. As long as there was confusion and uncertainty about sugar’s role in health, regulators were forced to give sugar a free pass.