The scandal that shaped U.S. dietary guidelines for half a century

I just love it when the powers that be get “outed.” And let me tell you, this latest scandal–which I’m calling “Sugargate”–is simply delicious.

It’s blown the lid off the illicit relationship between the sugar industry and the supposedly “unbiased” scientific community.

A researcher from the University of California recently discovered actual documents detailing bribes paid to scientists by the sugar industry, in an effort to coerce them to underplay sugar’s association to heart disease. And to point the finger at saturated fat, instead. And these weren’t recent dealings, either. These bribes go as far back as the late 1960s.

It’s proof that, for the last 50 years, dietary recommendations for heart disease prevention have been based on fraudulent research… And that the sugar industry itself had a hand in shaping the useless guidelines mainstream physicians still cling to today.

BADA BING, BADA BOOM. Who’s been shouting this from the rooftops for decades?

That’s right–yours truly.

I have been ridiculed on national television for even suggesting such a thing. Yet, for years, the truth about sugar has largely fallen on deaf ears.

But lo and behold, I was right.

Sugar does indeed kill. And even worse–our government subsidizes the industry responsible for these lethal lies.

So just how bad is it? Well, the recently exposed documents shine a spotlight the Sugar Research Foundation–a trade group that we now know as the Sugar Association. Turns out that, back in 1967, they gave three Harvard scientists what would amount to $50,000 today in return for publishing a review on the associations between sugar, fat, and heart disease.

But of course, the sugar industry dictated which studies would be included in the review. With the ultimate goal of minimizing any ties between sugar and heart disease…while shifting the blame toward what would become America’s favorite dietary scapegoat, saturated fat.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Shame on these scientists, on the sugar industry, and on our own government for allowing it to happen. Especially since it paved the way for generations of corrupt nutrition “research” to come.

This 50-year-old scandal may have been the first. But it certainly wasn’t the last. And the food industry has continued to dip its dirty fingers into nutrition science ever since.

Just last year, it came out that Coca-Cola was dumping millions of industry dollars right into the pockets of any researchers that would assist them in discrediting the very real link between soda drinking and obesity. Not to mention reports that junk food manufacturers are bankrolling studies that conclude kids who eat candy actually weigh less.

It’s also worth noting that while the Harvard scientists named in this latest expose are no longer living, they certainly left a legacy behind. One of them, Dr. Frederick J. Stare, rose to chairman of the nutrition department at Harvard University. Another, D. Mark Hegsted, eventually became the USDA’s head of nutrition–where he actually assisted in drafting an early version of the U.S. dietary guidelines.

I definitely wasn’t surprised to see how deep the collusion goes. But the dishonesty is so galling it did take my breath away.

And don’t even get me started on the Sugar Association’s attempts at deflection. They released a statement noting that, back in 1967 when this study was published, journals didn’t require financial disclosures from researchers. Like that’s somehow an acceptable excuse.

I think I’m in good company when I say that there is never justification for lies–by omission or otherwise–of this caliber. Especially not when they have such a destructive and lasting effect on the public health, via policies that were formed around such false premises.

For decades now, health officials have erroneously encouraged Americans to slash their fat intake. This, in turn, led many people to subsist off of the very low-fat, high-sugar foods that fueled the obesity crisis we are still in the grips of today.

Warnings about the dangers of saturated fat continue to plague our government’s dietary guidelines. And it’s only been in recent years that influential groups like the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization have conceded that added sugar might play any role at all in raising heart disease risk.

A day late and a dollar short, unfortunately. Remember this, and tell everyone you know: Fat doesn’t make you fat and sick. That honor has always gone to sugar.