When it comes to health, there are some things you just know (like, exercise = good) and some things you should really consult an expert on (like, ‘do I have high cholesterol?’). For those BIG health questions, there are certain sources we just trust like doctors, the government and highly-accredited universities. Now, we’re not really ones for crazy conspiracy theories, but it turns out the sugar industry has been duping us for a good 50 years and no one noticed until just now. Yeah, hold on to your hats, folks, this is going to be a bumpy ride. Cue X-Files theme.
Our tale starts waaay back in the 1960s. It was around that time when people started to come to the realization that sugar might not be the greatest thing to shove in our bodies. While it may taste like heaven, a number of studies came out in the early ’60s warning of the dangers sugar poses to your health (and if the current obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemics are any indication, they were right). Naturally, big sugar was not too pleased about science crapping all over their lovely product. So they hatched a devious plan.
In 1964, the Sugar Association (basically, everyone involved in the sugar trade) internally discussed changing the public’s negative attitudes toward sugar. At this point, there was concrete, scientific evidence that sugar was the leading cause of heart disease. That’s a pretty condemning fact. How do you spin that in a positive way for consumers? The answer is, you don’t.
The new plan? Get Harvard involved and lie, lie, lie.
The next year, the Sugar Association (doesn’t that sound like they should be associated with the Lollypop Guild from The Wizard of Oz?) paid what would be the equivalent of almost 50,000 dollars today to researchers at Harvard University to do a study taking the focus off the negatives of sugar.
The study, published in 1967, puts the blame on fats, rather than sugar, as the main cause of heart disease. The article stated that there was ‘no doubt’ that reducing cholesterol and saturated fats were the only measures necessary to reduce the risk of heart disease. Yeah, that’s a total lie.
It wasn’t until Monday of this week (49 years after the article’s publication) that the public found out about this backroom deal. The University of California-San Francisco published an article exposing the conspiracy after discovering the shady dealings and blatantly false information. Busted.
So basically, for decades, health professionals and civilians alike have been looking to saturated fat and cholesterol as the cause of heart disease when we should all be looking at sugar. And it’s all because big sugar wanted us buying that sweet sugary goodness.
So what does this all mean? Well, for scientists, it means focusing new research on the link between heart disease and sugar (hopefully with transparency and lots of scientific evidence). For us, it means being a lot more careful with that sweet powder, and thinking critically about what medical professionals tell us. That’s not to say ignore your doctor, we just need to be cautious about who we get our medical information from. Use your common sense. If someone tells you sugar isn’t that bad for you when it clearly is, go with your gut, not your sweet tooth.