According to the sugar industry, a diet high in fats, not sugar, causes heart disease. And according to the soda industry, exercise, or the lack thereof, is what causes obesity and diabetes – not the drinking of soda.
And according to my monkey, it’s only me and him that’s got nothing to hide. When my monkey told me this I said back to him, “Come on, let’s take it easy.”
Let’s start with this sugar industry manifesto, that it’s the fats and not the sugar that causes heart disease.
Did you know the sugar industry has a long history of distorting nutrition policy in the United States? And that it wasn’t until this year that the U.S. Dietary Guidelines finally recommended people keep their consumption of added sugars below 10 percent of their total calorie intake — decades after health advocates began pressing for the measure?
That’s some clout the sugar industry has, that they were able to successfully fend off lowering dietary sugar recommendations for as long as they did.
But a recent research paper published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, has spilled the dirt on how much the sugar industry has distorted the facts and kept things hidden from the public.
The level of distortion is so high that even my monkey was shocked. To settle my monkey down, I had to remind him that “the deeper you go the higher you fly.”
It is a scientific fact that sugar increases triglycerides in the blood, which may also help harden the arteries and thicken artery walls — driving up the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease. Beginning in the 1950s, a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation was concerned about evidence showing that a diet high in sugar might raise cholesterol levels in the blood. If sugar turned out to be a major driver of heart issues, the group surmised, that could be devastating for sugar producers.
So the Sugar Research Foundation aligned itself with leading Harvard nutrition professors, and paid them the equivalent of $48,900 (in 2016 dollars) for a two-part research review, later published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that would discredit the link between sugar and heart disease.
The review concluded there was “no doubt” that the only dietary intervention required to prevent coronary heart disease was to reduce dietary cholesterol and substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat in the American diet. In other words, the sugar-sponsored researchers emphasized the role saturated fat played in heart troubles, and de-emphasized the risks dietary sugar carry.
And thus began the emphasis on eating a low-fat diet as the best way to maintain heart health.
That was quite the snow job on the part of the sugar industry to hide and distort the truth.
And then there’s the sugar industry’s partner in crime, the soda industry. They, with a lead-in from Coca-Cola, are distorting reality by claiming that if you want to lose weight and also not get diabetes, it’s all about the exercise and not what you eat.
So what they’re telling my monkey is: it’s ok if you drink lots of soda, but if you want to lose weight, you better start exercising.
Except my monkey wasn’t buying it. In fact, he got so upset about this that in order to get him to calm down I had to say to him, “Your inside is out and your outside is in.”
So let’s examine this soda industry manifesto. Coca-Cola has teamed up with influential scientists who are advancing the message that it’s the exercise and not the soda, and they’re doing it in medical journals, at conferences and through social media.
To help the scientists get the word out, Coke has provided financial and logistical support to a new nonprofit organization called the Global Energy Balance Network, which promotes the argument that weight-conscious Americans are overly fixated on how much they eat and drink while not paying enough attention to exercise.
Steven Blair, the vice president of the Global Energy Balance Network says, “Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on. And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”
Gimme a break – that’s me talking and not my monkey. That’s the biggest bunch of horse bleep I’ve heard since the malarkey I heard regarding what the sugar industry has been saying about heart disease.
And why is Coke doing this?
This clash over the science of obesity comes in a period of rising efforts to tax sugary drinks, remove them from schools and stop companies from marketing them to children. In the last two decades, consumption of full-calorie sodas by the average American has dropped by 25 percent.
“Coca-Cola’s sales are slipping, and there’s this huge political and public backlash against soda, with every major city trying to do something to curb consumption,” said Michele Simon, a public health lawyer. “This is a direct response to the ways that the company is losing. They’re desperate to stop the bleeding.”
And desperate times cry out for desperate measures, so Coca-Cola has taken the slippery and low road and has resorted to distorting and hiding the truth.
But they, and the soda industry, and the sugar industry are not the only ones doing this.
Marion Nestle, a New York University food policy professor, says, “Is it really true that food companies deliberately set out to manipulate research in their favor? Yes, it is, and the practice continues.”
Nestle has been documenting the instances where companies fund nutrition studies that overwhelmingly return favorable results to the industry sponsors on her blog, Food Politics. On the blog, she began tracking all the industry-funded food and nutrition research she came across, paying particular attention to the number of studies that had positive results (i.e., favoring the funder).
Her findings so far are remarkable. Of the 168 industry-funded studies she has examined, 156 boast results that favor the funder. That’s more than 90 percent.
That’s a lot of distortion and a lot of things to hide. And it brings truth to what my monkey told me, that everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey.
I congratulated my monkey for being so correct, and he said back to me, “Come on is such a joy, Come on let’s make it easy, Come on let’s make it easy (Oh).”
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