Sugar industry’s paid scientific studies cover up health risks

A s Halloween approaches, children across America prepare to eat a ridiculous amount of candy.

The average American consumes approximately 150-170 pounds of refined sugars each year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. America’s obsession with sugar is more than just a fad—it is one of the leading causes of our current public health crisis surrounding obesity and heart disease. It is corrupt and immoral that major corporations have manipulated science in the name of preserving their dangerously unhealthy products.

Many studies have shown a direct link between sugar consumption and rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. This was an obvious conclusion to most in the scientific community for decades, but—through the wealth and influence of the sugar industry—their work was denigrated and ignored. Today, large soft-drink companies and sugar industry giants continue to fund pro-sugar research to minimize sugar’s deadly effects in an abhorrent attempt to mislead the public and protect their own greed.

When researchers were trying to determine the cause of America's skyrocketing rates of coronary heart disease in the 1960s, they focused on fats and sugars. Many scientists and health experts pointed to an increase in sugar consumption as a likely cause of the increase in health diseases. At the same time, other scientists—such as Dr. Mark Hegsted—focused on fats and saturated fats as the primary threat to Americans’ health.

Hegsted and two other Harvard University scientists were paid about $50,000 by today’s financial equivalent by the Sugar Research Foundation trade group for a study that downplayed the health risks of sugar, according to The New York Times.

The sugar industry has been muddying the scientific waters on this issue for decades. Millions of dollars have been spent to fund studies that minimize the health risks of sugar consumption, a practice that continues today. Many more millions are then spent on public relations campaigns championing this research and lobbying the government to be certain that sugar has a good reputation on the USDA dietary guidelines.

The New York Times reported in 2015 that the Coca-Cola Corporation has been funding campaigns that claim—falsely—that the key to losing weight is exercise, not a healthy diet. The Associated Press also found that an association representing top candy manufacturers largely funded a study that claimed that children who eat candy tend to weigh less.

This ethically perverse method of promoting sugar-friendly science—while refusing to accept the obvious harms of sugar—has successfully delayed action on these pressing health crises for decades. While the scientific community and the public are finally starting to rally around the obvious conclusion that the amount of sugar we eat is literally killing us, the sugar industry has not let up in its propaganda campaign.

So, this Halloween, indulge yourself a little, but think first before you go to buy a soda or candy bar from the vending machine. Not only is it terrible for your health, but also you will likely be funding a corporation who actively promotes faulty science to mislead the public on the dangers of its own product.