Ultraprocessed Foods (UPF)

Sugar Industry Paid Harvard Scientists to Blame Fat: Nutrition History Everyone Should Know

by Mike Mutzel


Recent revelations have shed light on a disturbing chapter in the history of nutrition science: the collusion between the sugar industry and Harvard scientists to vilify fat and deflect attention from the true culprit—sugar. This undiscolosed partnership, orchestrated behind closed doors, had profound implications for public health and dietary recommendations, shaping dietary guidelines and influencing consumer behavior for generations.


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Research Cited:

Kearns, C. E., Schmidt, L. A. & Glantz, S. A. Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research: A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents. JAMA Intern. Med. 176, 1680 (2016).

Yudkin, J. Pure, White, and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It


Show Notes:


By now sugar is unhealthy. But did you know that the sugar industry actually paid two Harvard scientists back in the 1960s to say that sugar is actually quite healthy and the problem is saturated fat and cholesterol? In today's show, we're going to talk about these historical documents and internal documents from the Sugar Research Foundation and how they paid two. Well-recognized Harvard scientists in their era to write these articles saying that it's really saturated fat that we should be focusing on. It's not sugar, sugar's not the problem. It's that butter. It's the red meat that is the problem. We're going to draw upon evidence from a paper published by Kristen Kerns in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016 titled Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research, A Historical Analysis and Internal Industry Documents. In short, the finding suggests that industry sponsored research in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt on the hazards of sugar while promoting fat as the dietary culprit and coronary heart disease.


Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry funded studies and include mechanistic and animal studies, as well as studies appraising the effect of added sugars on multiple coronary heart disease, biomarkers and disease development. So for historical context, it's important to understand two different figures. Here you have John Yudkin who recognized in the 1960s that it was really sugar that was driving coronary heart disease and obesity and other health ailments. But Frederick Sta over at Harvard argued that sugar is benign and safe. It is fat and cholesterol. So you have two different opinion leaders in their era that were battling academically, if you will, writing different articles. Yadkin was supporting it, as I mentioned, the premise that sugar is responsible for causing hyperlipidemia and all the challenges that exacerbate or worsen coronary heart disease. And Frederick Sta over at Harvard who actually took in today's dollars $48,000 from the Sugar Research Foundation and published a series of opinion pieces that were published in academic journals highlighting that, no, it's not sugar.

Sugar is benign. It's not sucrose, not glucose. It is the evil cholesterol and saturated fat that is the problem. But he didn't disclose at that time that he was being paid by the Sugar Research Foundation to influence the consumption of sugar and say that saturated fat and cholesterol are problematic. So there was this discussion forum piece that I will link in the show notes that was published in the 1960s in the journal trends in biomedical sciences. And I think this is really interesting because Frederick Sarah, again from Harvard, well recognized in his era, he highlights how sugar is totally safe. We can consume up to 30% of our total calorie intake per day from sugar. It's really cheap in the time of this was in the post World War II era, when there's food scarcity, when there's problems, sugar is relatively easy to access. And he highlights in this article that it's cheaper than butter, chicken and beef and we should probably all be consuming a lot more sugar. But as I


Mentioned, he didn't disclose that he had received about $50,000 in today's dollars from the Sugar Research Foundation. And I think it's just incredibly fascinating this story and we're going to further dive into that in just a second. But I just want to thank today's show sponsor. Our folks over at BonCharge.com have sponsored this video. They make one of the hottest yet lowest EMF sauna blankets that money can buy if you want to get into sauna therapy and harness all the benefits of getting hot on purpose, for example, relaxing, improving your cardiovascular health, reducing blood pressure, detoxifying some of these harmful persistent organic pollutants that are in our air, food, water, clothing, and food packaging. You need to start sauna bathing on a regular basis. BonCharge makes this really easy to do. Their at home sauna blanket gets up to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. It's an awesome, easy to use tool.


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Now, where have we heard this? We hear this from mainstream dieticians all the time that you need sugar. And that's why low carb diets are bad because you don't have enough sugar in your brain to make your neurons synthesize neurochemicals and neurotransmitters so that you can think and function. Remember, in high school and college before an exam, our teachers and professors would tell us, carb load have pasta before your finals at the end of the semester or end of the quarter. So all these myths about the benefits of sugar and carbohydrates and janky science can be traced back to this one event in 1965 where the Sugar Research Foundation funded what's known as Project 2 2 6. So back in 1965, the Sugar Research Foundation paid these two Harvard scientists, Frederick Sta and Hegsted, the equivalent of $48,000 back then to do a literature review on carbohydrates and cholesterol metabolism. And in which they talk about how it is really saturated fat and cholesterol that are problematic for the prevalence of cardiovascular disease and obesity and all these different things and it's not sugar. And so that really shifted the zeitgeist back then, and that led to ultimately the creation of the food


And the implementation of nutritional policy known as the dietary guidelines in the 1980s that really helped to create all the obesity that we see here. I mean, if you look at this figure and many other figures showing around the late 1970 and early eighties is when obesity started to skyrocket and it temporarily correlates with the Sugar Research Foundation influence and infusion of this money into these opinion leaders at the time. And they really started to go and write all about the benefits of sugar and the benefits of carbohydrates and how we all need to consume these things. And it's really the saturated fat, not the sugars or carbs that are causing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease and so forth. And so this review concluded that there was no doubt that the only dietary intervention required to prevent coronary heart disease was to reduce dietary cholesterol and substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat in the American diet.

They also promoted consumption and possibly even soy oil consumption. So this really shifted the zeitgeist, as I mentioned, and this caused people to start to adopt the macronutrient profiles that corroborated with and matched the ultra processed foods that were emerging at that time, the sugar sweetened beverages, the cereals, the cookies, crackers, candy, sugar sweetened snacks, baked goods and so forth. And it's important to recognize that the Sugar Research Foundation articles that influenced the zeitgeist at the time that lest I remind you, the Harvard scientists were paid by the Sugar Research Foundation were actually, these articles were published in high impact journals like New England Journal of Medicine. And again, they casted a lot of doubt on any speculation that sugar is problematic and helped to shift the medical community's perceptions that it is really cholesterol and saturated fat. And this led to a lot of randomized clinical trials using total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol as the quinone biomarker of coronary heart disease.

And so this now is some 40 plus years old where now people are recognizing that it's not just LDL or total cholesterol that is the reason behind why people have high rates of cardiovascular disease. We now know that high triglycerides insulin high hemoglobin A1C high glucose are incredibly problematic. But it turns out that the sugar industry influenced these two really highly reputable Harvard scientists to write these opinion pieces and a high impact journals. And that ultimately shifted the entire thinking of the medical community, which I think is just quite interesting. And it's really important for us to understand history to know when history might be repeating itself again. And I think we're starting to see that now with Walter Willett and folks over at Harvard as well as folks over at Stanford really promoting this plant-based diet push because we're starting to see the same language that we used to promote sugar back in the 1960s is being used


To foist a plant-based diet on people. Now highlighting again, the same biomarker that the sugar research industry paid scientists talked about total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol is now being used to push a plant-based diet. Folks over at Stanford, I'm not going to mention any names, but this person that recently published a study known as the Twin Study, he's getting funding from a meat alternative company, a plant-based meat alternative company. So we're seeing a lot of parallels here. And this is why I love to look at nutrition research and the history of nutrition because we see these things. History always repeats itself in global politics history throughout the world, and especially when it comes to nutrition where you see these major companies are paying scientists to write opinion pieces that foster their own products and they shift the culture and the zeitgeist. And it's also important to recognize that people have been sounding the alarm bells on processed foods and sugar and things for a very long time, but the medical community has sort of ostracized them as quacks and pseudo scientists.

And so I want to share with you this article before we part ways on sugar titled Food Fattest and Pseudo Scientists reflections on the history of resistance to ultra processed foods. This was published in the Journal Explorer, which is part of the ELs network. So back in the 1950s and 1960s, there were many people who were saying, Hey, look, all the sugar sweetened beverages that were emerging, the baked goods, the candy bars, the crackers and treats, these are problematic. But again, people that were getting influenced or financial gain from food companies were trying to smear the people who were actually saying that these foods are problematic. And so this historical account, I think it's really important for a lot of you to read, they talk about how now the medical community is acknowledging that ultra processed foods are problematic for obesity, for diabetes, for heart disease, for high blood pressure for dementia, and there's now a threefold increase in the prevalence of articles that are emerging highlighting processed foods and sugar being problematic.

But people have been sounding the alarm bells on these very foods for over 80 years now. James Rot Ri wrote the book called Tomorrow's Food back in 1947, and he highlighted how industry created foods like Crisco and et cetera are problematic for human health and these things should not be consumed. But the medical community again tried to smear this individual as well as many others who were trying to warn the public and people like you that consuming these foods are unhealthy. And now we come back full circle some almost 73 years later, and we have an article like this that was published in the British Medical Journal titled Ultra Processed Foods and Cardiometabolic Health Public Health Policies to Reduce Consumption Cannot Wait.


So you have so many articles now. I mean, if you just go into PubMed or Google Scholar type in sugar type in ultra processed foods, there's a lot of clinical trials, a lot of perspective observational studies finding that sugar sweetened beverages and processed foods are the reason behind the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases that lest I remind you are responsible for between 70 and 90% of all premature deaths throughout the world. And so it's junk food, sugar sweetened beverages, and it goes back to the history of sugar as well as other as Shadi research by Ansel Keys and others. But I do want to thank Christine Kerns. She's a dentist in San Francisco for helping to unearth this historical account and how we now know that the two opinion leaders thought leaders over at Harvard were paid the sum total of almost a hundred thousand dollars in their time to write favorable research saying that sugar is actually healthy.

And so again, we're seeing this same trend emerge with a plant-based diet push from folks over at Stanford, folks at Harvard and beyond. So I think it's really important to understand conflicts of interest and how industry can influence the zeitgeist within the medical community and can sometimes encourage people to eat in ways that are not necessarily congruent with long-term health. And so I think it's just important to acknowledge that we now have research here and we're starting to see history repeat itself yet again. So the take home message is sugar is problematic. We've talked about that in other videos. Consuming sugar sweetened beverages without question increases your risk of coronary heart disease, baked goods, sugar sweetened beverages, package foods are problematic. And so we're seeing the same thing repeat itself in nutrition. So I think it's important that you understand this historical context and download this article if you want to dive further into the details. Again, the title of this paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and this has been cited some 500 times already in just about eight years, is titled Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research, A Historical Analysis and Internal Industry Documents. So really important stuff that you should be aware of. I appreciate you tuning all the way in. What'd you think of this research review? If you enjoyed it, please hit that like button and thank you again for subscribing and we'll catch you in a future episode down the road.

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