Big Sugar seems to have copied Big Tobacco's playbook, a new report says.
More than four decades ago, a study in rats funded by the sugar industry found evidence linking the sweetener to heart disease and bladder cancer, paper trail research reports.
The results of that study were never made public.
Instead, the sugar industry halted the study and buried the evidence, said principal investigator Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco ( UCSF).
Glantz compared this to suppress Big Tobacco's internal research that links smoking to heart disease and cancer.
"This was an experiment that contradicted the scientific position of the sugar industry," Glantz said. "It certainly would have helped increase our understanding of the cardiovascular risk badociated with eating a lot of sugar, and they did not want that."
In response to the investigation, The Sugar Association issued a statement calling it "a collection of speculations and badumptions about events that took place nearly five decades ago, carried out by a group of researchers and funded by individuals and organizations that are known critics of the sugar industry ".
The new document focuses on an industry-sponsored study as Project 259 in documents generated by the Sugar Research Foundation and its successor, the International Sugar Research Foundation, and unearthed decades later by Glantz and his colleagues.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham in England conducted Project 259 between 1967 and 1971, comparing how laboratory rats fared when fed table sugar versus starch. The scientists specifically badyzed how intestinal bacteria processed the two different forms of carbohydrates.
Early results in August 1970 indicated that rats fed a high-sugar diet experienced an increase in blood triglyceride levels, a type of fat that contributes to cholesterol.
Rats fed sugar amounts also appeared to have elevated levels of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme previously badociated with bladder cancer in humans, the researchers said.
Months after receiving these results, the International Sugar Research Foundation could not approve an additional 12 weeks of funding that Birmingham researchers needed to complete their work, according to the authors behind the new research.
"The researcher who funded returned to them with preliminary results, which showed these adverse effects of sugar and said: 'I need a few more weeks to finish the study,'" said Glantz. "They just looked at it and said no, and they closed everything, as far as we can tell, nothing was ever published."
The timing of Project 259 was critical, said Glantz and lead author Cristin Kearns, a postdoctoral student. with the UCSF School of Medicine that reportedly discovered the industry documents.
During that period, the US Food and Drug Administration. UU I was weighing whether to take a hard line with foods high in sugar.
"Were those results made public? The sugar would have come under more scrutiny than it did," Kearns said.
The Sugar Association says that Project 259 was significantly delayed and exceeded the budget, "and the delay overlapped with an organizational restructuring with Sugar Research Foundation becoming a new entity, the International Sugar Research Foundation," according to with your own review of archival material.
"There were plans to continue the study with funds from the British Nutrition Foundation, but, for reasons unknown to us, this did not happen," says the industry group statement.
"Throughout its history, the Sugar Association has embraced scientific research and innovation in an attempt to learn as much as possible about sugar, diet and health," he continues. "We know that sugar consumed in moderation is part of a balanced lifestyle, and we remain committed to supporting research to better understand the role of sugar in the changing dietary habits of consumers."
Nutritionist Sharon Zarabi is director of the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She said the new research reveals "food industry lobbyists have government guidelines that instruct us on what to eat."
Zarabi noted that "most research studies that support specific foods are funded by the industry and this often biases the results."
Although these revelations may produce a media frenzy, they are unlikely to change. recommendations from dietitians, said Kelly Hogan, clinical manager of nutrition and wellness at the Mount Sinai Dubin Breast Center in New York City.
That's because subsequent research has revealed the effect that high-sugar diets can have on long-term health. People need to follow a balanced diet if they want to eat healthy, and that does not mean just focusing on the added sugars, he said.
"You can not point to a single thing and blame any kind of health crisis, now or 40 years ago," Hogan said. "It's never a single thing, be it sugar or saturated fats or whatever is trendy."
The new document was published online in November in the journal PLOS Biology. It was funded by a grant from the US National Cancer Institute, among others.
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