The current nutrition buzz is that sugar”™s bad news. It is.

The fact that admitting this is considered a new direction by nutritionists, dietitians and the public shows how off-base the nutrition field was for such a long time. It even makes the nutrition field appear ridiculous.

At least, to me. I”™ve been blasting sugar for 20+ years, at times getting blasted back for doing it.

But it”™s worth tracking the events, so we can blame the culprits who deserve it….

Once Upon a Time, Sugar Was Bad

In science journals in the 1970s, sugar”™s negative health effects were getting lots of attention. Films were available — some very good. A popular book was written on problems of sugar consumption: Sugar Blues, by William Dufty.

Interestingly, Sugar Blues was written before much (if anything) was known about the brain chemicals triggered by sugar. And way before any connection was made between sugar and appetite, cravings, health, moods, and more.

It wasn”™t till 1975 that endorphin (beta-endorphin) was “discovered.” So the 1974 book was a little ahead of its time. And yet it was timely because scientists were researching sugar.

That wasn”™t good news for the sugar industry. And the sugar industry is a powerful lobby in Washington, D.C.

If you don”™t think food industry lobbyists influence the government, an eye-opening book is Food Politics by Marion Nestle. She describes the laborious, frustrating process of developing the original Food Guide Pyramid.[wlm_private 'PRO-Platinum|PRO-Monthly|PRO-Gratis|PRO-Seasonal|Platinum-trial|Monthly-trial|PRO-Military|30-Days-of-PRO|90 Day PRO|Stages-Instructor|Schwinn-Instructor|Instructor-Bonus|28 Day Challenge']

Nestle was working for the USDA and visited daily by beef and dairy industry reps. Their complaints — and the pressure they applied — were significant factors in the Food Guide Pyramid, released in 1991.

Those complaints made the original Pyramid vague and confusing for consumers in several ways. Years later, it had to be revised for clarification. (That”™s a side issue, but stay with me.)

The take-home point is that the food industries are the real constituents of the USDA. We, the consumers, are not. Our health is of far less concern to that government agency than placating its constituents.

Which brings us back to sugar in the late 1970s.

The sugar industry didn”™t care for the scientific emphasis on the health problems linked with sugar and began working its evil.

Sugar Devil Spins Fat As the Enemy

By 1984, fats had been designated the new Dietary Demon.

From that point until the late 1990s — and beyond — we suffered through the low-fat craze. And a craze it was, although it was disguised as the Right Way To Eat.

Some people still believe it! They even cite Ancel Keys, whose work has since been debunked by several sources.

During that time, several things happened — none good, except for the sugar industry.

First, scientists turned away from sugar and began looking at fats.

They investigated health problems linked with high-fat diets, saturated fats, red meats, cheeses, and other “bad fats.” New scientific findings emerged and found their way into mainstream media.

In 1995, an entire supplement of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) published the papers from a conference on dietary sugar.

The presenters were hand-selected from researchers whose names I immediately recognized. They consistently found that sugar had no negative consequences on health, weight, or even cavities.

Do I have to tell you that funding for these scientists come from makers of sugary food products?

Here”™s the take-away: After the conference, all companies attending (General Mills, Kraft, and other big sugar-users you know) could “legitimately” claim that their reps had attended a scientific conference — where it was conclusively shown that sugar is not bad for any reason whatsoever.

Also during the low-fat craze, the food industry developed low-fat and nonfat versions of their products. Conveniently for the sugar industry — and not coincidentally — the products used sugar to replace the flavor lost when fat was removed.

One example? Cream cheese. The full-fat product contains no sugar, but the nonfat version did and does. A line of low-fat frozen foods — ironically named Healthy Choice — added sugar to every product, including soup. Other companies followed.

Product developers even created artificial fats. Remember Olean and Olestra? (How about the side effects, such as anal leakage? Perhaps that”™s a story for a different post.)

With all of these low- and nonfat foods available, dietary fat fell far below the original recommendation of 30%.

That 30% had been endorsed by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society — until the low-fat craze hit us.

My clinical observation was that protein intake fell, too, especially among women. Protein contains fat — sometimes a lot — so women who were concerned with weight loss just let that go. They started eating carbs, and lots of them.[/wlm_private]

Part 2 is about how we became a nation of sugar junkies and what happened when fitness professionals finally saw the light.

Joan Kent

Add Your Thoughts...