A new investigation has found that the sugar industry knew about the harmful health effects of sugar decades ago, and buried it – drawing comparisons to similar cover-up tactics used by the tobacco industry.
More than four decades ago, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) funded an animal study called Project 259 that looked into the effects of sugar on cardiovascular health. They compared a high-sugar diet to a high-starch diet and found that table sugar, or sucrose, was linked to heart disease and bladder cancer. When the scientists presented these initial findings, the sugar board pulled the plug on the study and buried the evidence.
Why the sugar industry’s cover-up matters
This finding is especially significant because, back in the 1960s when the study occurred, the idea that diet could impact our health – specifically heart health – was still a new one, and the debate between fat vs. sugar was raging. The results showed that sugar was in fact influencing heart disease risk, not to mention acting as a possible carcinogen. Had the research been made public, it could have influenced heart-health dietary recommendations. Instead, argues professor of medicine Stanton Glantz, PhD, author of the investigation, “they shifted all of the blame onto fats.” If you’re a product of the 70s and 80s, you’ll recall the birth of low-fat, high-sugar snack foods that were supposedly healthier for you.
What the original study on sugar found
According to the internal documents discovered by UCSF researchers, the 1968 study found a significant increase in triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) in rats fed a high-sugar diet, compared to rats on a traditional diet. These results, which were revealed to SRF, demonstrated that gut microbiota play a causal role in carbohydrate-induced hypertriglyceridemia – i.e., heart disease caused by sugar. High levels of triglycerides increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in people. The study also found that rats fed a high-sugar diet versus a high-starch diet showed higher levels of beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme associated with bladder cancer, in their urine.
Big business = bad health
Glantz and his co-authors speculate that the so-called sugar controversy “may be rooted in more than 60 years of food and beverage industry manipulation of science.” This revelation reminds us why the biohacking community exists in the first place. Big industries have looming lobbies and whopping agendas to look out for their bottom line so it’s essential to consider where the facts are coming from, and take your health into your own hands.
Sugar vs. fat – the debate continues
What we now know more than 40 years later is that sugar intake is connected to heart disease. In addition to elevating triglycerides, it deregulates your hormones – wreaking havoc on testosterone and spiking the release of cortisol and estrogen – which in excess can lead to heart disease.
Meanwhile, the link between saturated fat and heart disease is murkier. While the American Heart Association still agrees with government recommendations to limit saturated fat, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says there’s a lack of evidence connecting the two. And in fact, recent studies call into question whether there’s a link at all. While a high-fat diet may feel counterintuitive to what you’ve learned about heart health until recently, it might not seem so strange now.
Here’s what you can do to cut back on sugar and embrace a heart-healthier lifestyle:
- How To Stop Sugar Cravings For Good
- Kick Your Sugar Habit With These Bulletproof Alternative Sweeteners
- Don’t Fear Fat: 7 Reasons Dietary Fat Is Good for You