A recent article shows never-before-seen documents between the sugar industry and a team of Harvard researchers who were paid to benefit sugar over fat in the heart-disease battle. The article was published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.
As shocking as it might sound, on Monday an article was published showing correspondence between the Sugar Research Foundation, today known as The Sugar Association, and Harvard’s researchers discussing the publication of a new study that could benefit the sugar industry.
The documents date back over fifty years ago, at the beginning of the 1960s were the discussions against sugar began in the scientific world. Previous research had shown that sugar could have a harmful effect on the human heart and lead to heart diseases and death.
The recent article was the result of an extensive investigation made by a researcher from the University of California in San Francisco along with Cristin E. Kearns, who is a postdoctoral student from the U.C.S.F and discovered the documents at Harvard’s archives.
Discovering the founding
The article published on Monday shows the correspondence between the Sugar Association and the researchers around the 1960s, according to the documents the team in charge of the study was paid the equivalent of today’s $50,000 to benefit the industry and blame heart diseases on fat.
“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” said Simon Glantz, lead author of the research and medicine professor at the University of California in San Francisco.
The team of researchers was handed a series of documents by the Sugar Association, as a base for the investigation, said reports strongly suggested sugar intake had no consequences over the human heart, the study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine during the 60s.
According to the documents, a top executive from the sugar industry named John Hickson, contacted the researchers after discussing the investigation with other industry members, seeking to ” shift public opinion through our research, information and legislative programs,” as the Times reports.
Correspondence between Hickson and other industry members, discussing the publication says that they can “publish the data” and “refute their detractors.” On another document’s the high executive insists on the intention of the study to the research team.
“We are well aware of your particular interest and will cover this as well as we can,” read Dr. Hegsted’s response to Hickson.
The New York Times reports that the team of scientists that performed the study, as well as the executives in charge of the Sugar Association no longer live. But their names were revealed by the paper.
D. Mark Hegsted was one of the researchers in the study, who later became the nutrition specialists at the U.S Department of Agriculture and as the Time reports, Hegsted played a major role on the government’s dietary guidelines, which some remain today. Frederick J. State was the chair for Harvard’s nutrition and another author of the study.
Hegsted later used the publication of the study in his role of head nutrition specialists at the US. Department of Agriculture and formed the guidelines for the common American diet, reducing the intake of saturated fats and disregarding the effects sugar had on health.
The publication of the article on Monday comes in a shocking time where the role sugar plays in heart diseases and health remains a question, and where science is doubting all of the studies funded by big corporations.
Just last year, the media learned that Coca-Cola was founding several studies worth over millions of dollars to disproof the link between obesity rates and sugar drinks, just a few months after the company had told the public there was no relation between sugar and obesity. The on-going debate on funded studies and the publication of the article made Marion Nestle, who is a professor of nutrition, food studies and public Health at NYU.
Ms. Nestle ensured that the published article had enough and substantial evidence to prove that today’s nutrition has been formed by big industries such as the Sugar Association, which managed to diminish the risks of sugar on the heart.
In response to the published article, the Sugar Association ensured that the executives at the time should have been more transparent in their research method, yet confirmed the scientifical relevance the study had.
However, the Association did criticize the publication of the article categorizing it among the “headline-baiting- articles” that are slowly bein published to disregard the scientific advances made by corporations.
The article in which the Harvard team worked on was released in the year of 1984 and helped dim down the on-going discussion between sugar and heart diseases.