Less Than Honest

Coronary heart disease has been and continues to be a leading cause of death in the US.

During the 1950's, the role of diet specifically sugar was suggested as a contributing factor to high rates of heart disease. Aware of the research implicating sugar intake and the development of coronary heart disease, the Sugar Research Foundation sponsored additional research. The sponsorship of the research by the sugar industry was not known at the time. During the 1960's and the 1970's, this sugar industry sponsored research cast doubts on the role of sugar and implicated our fat intake in the development of heart disease. The conclusions of sugar industry sponsored research has influenced our dietary guidelines and health policies. "Low fat" and not "low sugar" is what we began telling our patients.

Researchers at UCSF have reviewed the internal documents, historical reports and statements of the Sugar Research Foundation during this period. Their findings were recently published by JAMA Intern Med. They concluded that 1) the sugar industry downplayed the research showing sugar consumption as a risk factor in coronary heart disease, 2) the role of sugar should be considered in all future coronary heart disease studies and 3) given the potential conflict of interest, policy makers should give careful consideration to food industry-funded studies.

Kearns C et al. Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research. A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents. JAMA Intern Med. Published online September 12, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.5394

Sharan Abdul-Rahman, MD

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