Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the number one killer in America. So what’s harming American hearts? Cholesterol-laden bacon double cheeseburgers and cigarettes? Booze? Don’t forget the sugar.
If you don’t associate sugar with heart disease, that might be because the sugar industry funded research focusing on cholesterol and dietary fat, leaving sucrose off the hook. The authors of this study believe that the sugar industry offered a sweet deal to prestigious researchers to divert their attention away from sugar. This derailed the conversations for decades.
Dr. Stanton Glantz of University of San Francisco published a study in JAMA Internal Medicine journal examining the role of the sugar industry in coronary heart disease research. It turns out that sugar producers created the Sugar Research Foundation in 1943 to control the narrative on the health effects of sugar.
By the 1950’s, independent research cropped up that implicated sucrose in heart disease. That’s when Dr. Glantz claims that the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) stepped in. He scoured the archives and found that the SRF influenced many coronary heart disease studies published the 1960’s and 1970’s.
At that time, researchers found links between dietary fat and heart disease. The SRF funded studies that pinned unhealthy hearts on fat. But Dr. Glantz claims that this strategy was a 1-2 punch for the sugar industry. First, they could point pitchforks away from sugar and towards fat.
As the mob turned on dietary fat, food manufacturers rushed to make low-fat or non-fat version of their product. But any cook worth his salt will tell you that fat equals flavor. That’s where sugar comes in, or went in, to food in every aisle of the grocery store. Now, we live in a world where most processed food is packed full of sugar, even if you don’t expect it to be.
While the bulk of these studies occurred during the 20th century, their legacy continues to this day. He writes that, even today, “CHD risk is inconsistently cited as a health consequence of added sugars consumption. Because CHD is the leading cause of death globally, the health community should ensure that CHD risk is evaluated in future risk assessments of added sugars.”
So remember to take health studies with a grain of salt or, in this case, sugar.