Is Sugar The New Tobacco?
For the last 40 years we’ve been told that fat is bad for you, that it is the enemy and that it should be avoided at all costs.
We’ve also been told that reducing cholesterol and saturated fat was the only dietary intervention needed to prevent heart disease and a range of other nasty cholesterol-induced ailments.
Low-fat products started springing up in our grocery stores and tables in the early seventies and the low-fat industry has been ever since thriving in the growing request from terrorised fat-avoiding consumers.
But where did this all come from?
Well, apparently it was all planned by fat’s most important enemy: the Sugar Industry.
In 1964, the Sugar Association decided it was time to put an end to growing negative attitudes toward sugar after studies had begun emerging linking sugar with heart disease. To do this what better method than that of pointing “scientific” fingers elsewhere?
The result of this meeting was that in 1967 an article was published by a Harvard research group. It stated that heart disease was undoubtedly linked to high intakes of saturated fats and high cholesterol.
What were the consequences?
Following the publication of this article, scientists, health officials and governments have focused on reducing saturated fats and educating consumers to reduce fats in their diets.
And the effects of sugar went in oblivion for a long 4 decades.
Even current UK government guidelines advise to cut fats. As a matter of fact, this has been a major cause of discussion at the beginning of the year, when a group of scientists specialised in Obesity said that the focus on low-fat diets is failing to address Britain’s obesity crisis and could have disastrous consequences for the population.
So what’s the kink?
Well, according to documents dug up from US public archives, the 1967 Harvard research was funded directly by the Sugar Industry. The researchers were not only paid today’s equivalent of around 50.000$ for the article, but its contents were also reviewed by the Industry before being published.
The resulting “commissioned” article was veered into overstating the consistency of the literature on fat and cholesterol, while simultaneously downplaying studies on sugar, according to the recent analysis.
So what is the truth? Fat vs Sugar
Even though the link between diet and heart disease is still unclear, what has been cropping up quite clearly in research during the the last years, is that dietary cholesterol has no relationship with dietary fat.
Some studies have actually reported a protective role of a fat-rich diet towards heart disease.
Yes, you read well!
In the meantime the American Heart Association has shown to hold in high consideration recent studies that have reported that it may be sugar, and not fat, to increase the risk of heart disease.
It seems to be emerging that current guidelines for a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet might be deeply flawed.
Just as with the tobacco industries who polluted scientific research to hide the association between smoking and lung cancer, the Sugar Industry has decided our diets for the last 40 years.
The proof is in the “pudding”
Current dietary guidelines promoting a low-fat dietary pattern have not been able to mitigate or stop the growing problem of obesity. In the meantime, sugar consumption has relevantly increased in many of the obesity-stricken populations around the world and evidence has been growing for a major role of sugar in obesity and many other health problems.
The WHO itself has developed guidance on free sugars* intake (see here)
Are we therefore to face a food revolution after years of industry-induced “fat-less” diets?
We’ll drink a (sour) coffee on that.