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US sugar industry paid large amount for Harvard study
More than 50 years ago, researchers from the renowned Harvard University investigated the health effects of sugar. What became known only now: The results published at the time apparently only reflected part of the truth. The US sugar industry is said to have paid the researchers for glossing over the link between high sugar consumption and heart disease.
High sugar consumption is harmful to health
Too much sugar makes you fat and sick - this has been proven in many studies. Doctors have long warned of the serious consequences of high sugar consumption such as obesity, dental diseases or diabetes. An important detail has so far remained largely unknown to the public: Because high sugar consumption obviously poses a similar risk for cardiovascular diseases as the high consumption of saturated fatty acids. This emerges from historical documents that were analyzed by scientists from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and published in the specialist journal "JAMA Internal Medicine".
Public deceived for years?
According to the university, the debate over the connection between sugar and heart disease could have been influenced by the sugar industry for decades, the university reports in a current communication. The background to this assumption is a study of heart diseases and their causes, which was carried out in 1967 at the renowned Harvard University School of Public Health. The three nutritionists Frederick Stare, Robert McGandy and Mark Hegsted, who published their results in the “New England Journal of Medicine”, were involved.
Industry association pays $ 50,000
As the researchers at the University of California have now discovered, the study at the time was apparently supposed to show that it is not sugar, but primarily fat and cholesterol that are responsible for heart diseases. In their report, the Harvard scientists mentioned that high sugar consumption was also associated with the frequency of a heart attack - in conclusion, however, this important detail was not disclosed.
Analysis of the historical documents also revealed that the researchers had received a very large amount of money for the study at the time. As the university reports, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) paid around $ 50,000 to work on sugar, fat, and heart disease. The SRF was a forerunner of what is now the US Sugar Industry Association.
Scientists argue about the causes of increasing heart attacks
The reason for the study was the discussion in the USA at the time about the reasons for the drastically increasing number of fatal heart diseases at the time. This faced two camps, which, according to the UCSF researchers' report, were led by two prominent physiologists: The English nutritionist John Yudkin believed that the increasing consumption of sweetened foods was responsible for the increase in heart attacks. The American scientist Ancel Keys, on the other hand, identified fats or saturated fatty acids and cholesterol in the diet as the main cause.
Study to Distract Sugar Criticism
Finally, to distract from Yudkin's criticism, the Sugar Research Foundation commissioned the Harvard study called Project 226. The conclusion of the research team at the time: There is “no doubt” that the only nutritional measure to prevent coronary heart diseases is to reduce cholesterol in the diet and to replace polyunsaturated fatty acids with saturated ones, the university said.
"As the saying goes: if you pay, you can choose," said study author Stanton A. Glantz. "There are all kinds of ways you can subtly manipulate the results of a study and the industry is very skilled at it," said the professor of medicine and director of the UCSF Research Center for Tobacco Control and Education.
Scientists confirm the negative influence of sugar
Today, genetic predisposition, lack of exercise and being overweight as a result of a diet that is too rich in fat and sugar are seen as central risk factors for high cholesterol and heart disease. This is also confirmed by Harvard University: "The data we have today shows that refined sugar and especially sugary drinks are a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases," said Walter Willett from the Department of Nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health opposite the "New York Times". But the type of fats in the food is also very important, the expert emphasizes. Because above all, a high consumption of saturated fatty acids from foods of animal origin is a risk factor.
"Reviewing the literature not only helped shape public opinion about what causes heart problems, it also helped the scientific community understand how to evaluate nutritional risk factors for heart disease," said lead author Cristin Kearns, according to the university's announcement. (No)