Claims sugar scientists paid off ‘bid to rewrite history’

20 September 2016 

FGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich has hit out at an analysis of historical sugar industry documents published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

She writes in Food Navigator-Asia that the analysis is an attempt to rewrite history and to create a conspiracy where none exists.

In the analysis, academics from the University of California, San Francisco, accused the forerunner of the American Sugar Association of paying three Harvard nutrition scientists in the 1960s to downplay any connection between sugar consumption and heart disease. The academics claimed they had proof the scientists had been doing the bidding of sugar companies and published biased research.

In a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Harvard scientists had cited “major evidence” to suggest that “only one avenue” existed by which diet might precipitate hardening of the arteries “by influencing the levels of serum lipids, especially serum cholesterol”. “There can be no doubt that levels of serum cholesterol can be substantially modified by manipulation of the fat and cholesterol of the diet”, they wrote. “We conclude, on the basis of epidemiologic, experimental and clinical evidence, that a lowering of the proportion of dietary saturated fats, increasing the proportion of polyunsaturated acids and reducing the level of dietary cholesterol are the dietary changes most likely to be of benefit”.

Mrs Rich says the scientists’ conclusions were completely in line with the thinking of most academics at the time.

“But the fact that the paper had been published without disclosing payment—not a requirement of the New England Journal of Medicine until 1984—was sufficient proof for the authors of the JAMA article to claim the scientists had done the bidding of the industry and published biased research.

“I see their findings as an attempt to rewrite nutrition history and create a narrative that 60 years of low-fat nutrition advice is somehow a grand industry conspiracy.

“The story that these three very highly regarded academics could be paid to manipulate their research just to support the sugar industry is on very shaky ground indeed.”


See Katherine Rich’s article ‘Sugar review rewriting history to expose a non-existent conspiracy’ in Food Navigator-Asia here

See the paper ‘Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Research: A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents’ on the JAMA website here