Historical analysis examines role of sugar industry in heart disease research – sciencedaily


Based on archival documents, a new report published online by JAMA Internal Medicine examines the sugar industry’s role in coronary heart disease research and suggests that industry-sponsored research is influencing the scientific debate to cast doubt on the dangers of sugar and promote dietary fat as a culprit in heart disease .

Stanton A. Glantz, Ph.D., of the University of California at San Francisco, and his coauthors reviewed internal documents from the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), which later evolved into the Sugar Association, historical reports and other documents to create a case study timeline. The documents included correspondence between the SRF and a Harvard University professor of nutrition who was co-director of the SRF’s first coronary heart disease research program in the 1960s.

The SRF initiated coronary heart disease research in 1965 and its first project was a review of the literature published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1967. The review focused on fat and cholesterol as dietary causes of coronary heart disease and minimized sugar intake as a risk factor. The SRF set the focus for the journal, helped with the inclusion of articles and received drafts, while the funding and role of the SRF were not disclosed, according to the article.

“This historic account of the industry’s efforts demonstrates the importance of having reviews written by people without conflicts of interest and the need for financial disclosure,” note the authors, who stress that the NEJM has demanded that authors ‘They have been disclosing all conflicts of interest since 1984. There is also no direct evidence that the sugar industry wrote or modified the manuscript for the NEJM journal and evidence that the industry shaped its conclusions is circumstantial, acknowledge the authors.

The limitations of the article include the fact that the articles and documents used in the research provide only an overview of the activities of a sugar industry trade group. The authors did not analyze the role of other organizations, nutrition leaders or food industries. The key figures of the historical episode detailed in this article could not be interviewed because they are deceased.

“This study suggests that the sugar industry sponsored its first CHD [coronary heart disease] research project in 1965 to minimize warning signs that sucrose consumption was a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Since 2016, sugar control policies have been promulgated in international, federal, state and local bodies. Yet the risk of coronary heart disease is inconsistently cited as a health consequence of consuming added sugars. Since coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, the health community must ensure that the risk of coronary heart disease is assessed in future risk assessments for added sugars. Policy-making committees should consider giving less weight to studies funded by the food industry and include mechanistic and animal studies as well as studies evaluating the effect of added sugars on several coronary heart disease biomarkers and development of disease, ”the article concludes.

Comment: Funding of nutrition research by the food industry

“This 50-year-old incident may seem like ancient history, but it is very relevant, not least because it answers some questions relating to our present era.… The perpetrators have rendered a great public service to the community. science by bringing this historic example to light. May it serve as a warning not only to policy makers, but also to researchers, clinicians, peer reviewers, journal editors and journalists of the need to take into account takes into account the damage to scientific credibility and public health when dealing with studies funded by food companies with vested interests in the results – and to find better ways to fund such studies and to prevent, disclose and manage potentially conflicting interests, ”writes Marion Nestlé, Ph.D., MPH, of New York University, in a related commentary.

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Patrick F. Williams

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