Sugar industry lies about fats

New York Times image

When I grew up in New York, print journalism was thriving and the New York Times was regarded as the finest newspaper in the U.S. I still view it that way.

So am I allowed to brag that I scooped the NY Times?! Perhaps you”™ve seen the recent article on how the sugar industry shifted blame to fat by paying scientists to move health research in that direction.

Over a year ago (June 2015), I wrote an article called "Why Sugar Hacked Science (And Your Health).” It described the sugar industry”™s underhanded finagling to shift research to the so-called dangers of fats. I didn”™t investigate or uncover payouts, just facts I had observed directly and in reading for my doctoral dissertation.

My article traced sugar”™s link to the obesity trend, along with the impact on the fitness industry and more. And now we can bolster it with knowledge of the money trail.

Bottom line: The sugar industry was responsible for the U.S. obesity epidemic (and all the attendant health issues) because they didn”™t care about anything but their own profits.

When we add to the picture its payouts to Harvard scientists, the sugar industry clearly emerges as nefarious, greedy, a bottom-feeder. As bad as Monsanto? Worse? You decide.

So What Happened? And Keep It Brief!

Science journals in the 1970s featured many articles on the negative health effects of sugar. Films were available. William Dufty wrote Sugar Blues in 1974.

I knew the sugar industry was a powerful lobby in Washington, D.C. By 1984, it had managed to spin fats as the new dietary enemy. We now know it was done with payoffs to scientists and prominent science journals like the New England Journal of Medicine.

From that point until the end of the 1990s (and beyond), we suffered through the low-fat craze. Remember? It was “the right way to eat.”

Scientists began researching health problems caused by high-fat diets, saturated fats, red meats, cheeses, and so on.

Food companies created low-fat and non-fat versions of their products. To replace lost flavor, the new products used sugar.

Dietary fats fell far below original recommendations of 30%, traditionally endorsed by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.

My clients”™ protein intake fell, too, especially in women looking to lose weight. Protein contains fat, so they started eating carbs instead. Lots of them.

Pasta, Anyone? Nonfat Frozen Yogurt? New Trends!

Recommendations for increased carbohydrates came from everywhere, but it would have happened anyway. Once you eliminate fat and avoid protein because of its fat, carbs are the only thing left.

The Pritikin Center recommended diets of 7% protein and below 10% fat, leaving 83% or more in carbs.

My clients”™ food logs showed which carbs they were eating. Not vegetables, legumes or roots, but sugar and white flour.

During this low-fat craze, U.S. sugar consumption rose 25 pounds per person per year. That was just the increase, not the total consumption. It kept rising. By 1996, sugar consumption was up again for the tenth consecutive year.

That sugar/fat seesaw (one goes up, the other down) is acknowledged in science journals but not explained. In my doctoral dissertation, I explained the hormonal and neurochemical links.

Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup rose, too, based on 1991 USDA figures.

During that period, obesity in the U.S. became epidemic. After 20 years at 25% of the U.S. population, overweight shot up to 33% in the 1980s. The Minnesota Heart Health Program tried — and failed — to explain the increase with data on dietary fat.

In 1995, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition devoted an entire supplement to the papers presented at a conference on dietary sugar. Presenters were hand-selected; I recognized their names instantly. They ALWAYS found that sugar had no negative consequences — on health, weight, cavities, or anything else. (Do you wonder who funded them?)

The result: Every food company attending — all big sugar-users — could claim that a scientific conference presented evidence that sugar is not bad for any reason.

The Fitness Industry Must Take Some Heat

By the late 1980s, the fitness industry had jumped on the low-fat train. (I got trapped on it, too.) Weight-loss guidelines reflected low-fat dogma.

Fitness conference goody bags were filled with low-fat, high-sugar bars. Fitness instructors (and others) ate them “for energy.”

In the early 1990s, I spoke to a group of fitness pros on health problems linked with sugar. An angry woman shouted, “I have the same degree you do” — we both had mater”™s degrees in exercise physiology — “and you don”™t know what you”™re talking about!”

I have many other examples, but let”™s not make this about me.

Controversy raged. Fitness industry publications railed against fats in one issue, against carbs in the next.

In 1998, just 3 years after its “sugar”™s just fine” issue, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition devoted an entire issue to the benefits of fats in fighting obesity and metabolic disorders. Several articles in it addressed the failure of low-fat diets to effect long-term weight loss.

We”™ve Now Come Full Circle

People now recognize the danger of high-sugar foods. You may think the sugar industry will be unable to bamboozle us again.

But everywhere I go, I see a push for “sneaky sugars.” And consumers want to believe that agave isn”™t sugar, or that products sweetened with fruit juice or coconut sugar are different.

A man walked out of my presentation when I answered that, yes, fruit is sugar.

What we”™re told about nutrition in the U.S. is not what we should know or do. It”™s what will benefit the food industries — they”™re the real constituents of the USDA.

Sugar can cause inflammation, increase appetite, and trigger cravings, binge eating and mood swings. It can cause (yes) diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, and other metabolic disorders. It affects autistic kids.

Fructose, the sugar in fruit, is arguably the worst sugar. It”™s the half of sucrose that makes it junk. Yet people are more reluctant than ever to give up fruit juice, syrups, or many servings of fruit. I”™ve written book chapters on fruit as the “final frontier” in nutrition health. It probably is.

It”™s fun to say that I scooped the NY Times, but much work remains to be done. I”™m passionate about helping you conquer sugar so you can transform your health, stop binge eating, eliminate cravings, stop moods swings, and feel fantastic. Get started now. Grab your free copy of “3 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Trying To Quit Sugar” right here.

Joan Kent

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