Who writes the policies for public health, and how? This is an important question, and if your initial answer is that policy is created by medical experts, based on the most scientifically compelling evidence available, you’d actually be wrong.
As recent media reports1,2,3,4 have revealed, dental policy, for example, is heavily influenced by the sugar industry.
Adding insult to injury, the American Dental Association (ADA) takes money from junk food companies as well—the primary purveyors of cavities—and then promotes fluoride as the answer to the sugar damage.
As a result of this collusion, dental policy not only downplays the impact that sugar and processed junk food has on dental health, it also ignores the voluminous evidence demonstrating the toxic nature of fluoride.
The situation is virtually identical in the UK. As noted in the British Medical Journal (BMJ):5
“An investigation by The BMJ has uncovered evidence of the extraordinary extent to which key public health experts are involved with the sugar industry and related companies responsible for many of the products blamed for the obesity crisis through research grants, consultancy fees, and other forms of funding.”
Cavities Are Not the Result of Fluoride Deficiency
Blaming cavities on lack of fluoride is like blaming obesity on lack of exercise. The scientific evidence does not support either of these notions, and yet they persist—in large part thanks to industry lobbyists working to obscure the facts.
In the case of dental policy, ADA lobbying, using money from the sugar and junk food industries, have played a key role in perpetuating the fluoride myth rather than attacking the real source of the problem, which is rooted in a diet too high in sugars and too low in vital nutrients.
The sugar industry actually operates in much the same way as the tobacco industry back in its heydays.6 For over 30 years, the tobacco industry knew that nicotine was addictive and caused lung cancer, and this information was purposefully withheld from the public.
Big Tobacco executives even lied during Congressional testimony, stating they had no knowledge of adverse health effects.
Today, Big Sugar is being equally evasive about fessing up the truth, despite overwhelming evidence showing that excessive sugar consumption—which is part and parcel of a processed food diet—is a key driver of obesity, metabolic dysfunction, chronic disease and, of course, dental cavities.
According to the World Health Organization7 (WHO), people across the US and Europe need to cut their sugar consumption in half in order to reduce their risk of tooth decay and obesity.
But how well will such advice take hold when the soda industry is working hand-in-hand with some of our most trusted nutrition experts, including dietitians,8 some of whom recently contributed online posts for American Heart Month that included mini-sized coca-colas in their healthy snack recommendations!
Sure, the can may be smaller, but these mini-colas still contain about 5.5 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. For an adult with insulin resistance, this one mini-can alone maxes out your fructose allotment for the day.
Honestly, this is like Big Tobacco making mini-cigarettes and doctors promoting them as a healthy alternative for smokers…
Many Parents Still Grossly Misinformed on Sugar Hazards
The WHO’s guidelines call for reducing sugar consumption to 10 percent of daily calories or less, which equates to about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar for adults. Ideally, the WHO says, your intake should be below five percent. This is more in line with my own recommendations.
I typically recommend keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day if you’re in good health. If you are insulin resistant, diabetic, obese, or have high blood pressure, heart disease, or other chronic disease, I suggest cutting it down to 15 grams per day until your health and weight have normalized.
It’s important to remember that added sugar hides in most processed foods, beverages, and condiments (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which research has shown to be far more hazardous to your health than glucose or table sugar).
Fruit juices are also chockfull of added sugars, yet many still mistakenly consider fruit juice to be a healthy beverage choice, especially for young children.
As noted in a recent study9 from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at University of Connecticut, parents have been grossly mislead by marketing and labeling, and have failed to get the message that sweetened drinks are just as hazardous to their children’s health as soda.
According to lead author Jennifer Harris, who is also the director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center:
“Although many parents know that soda is not good for children, many still believe that sugary drinks are healthy options. The labeling and marketing for these products imply that they are nutritious, and these misperceptions may explain why so many parents buy them.”
What’s worse, nearly half of all parents surveyed for this study also thought that flavored waters were healthy, which is a gross miseducation about the facts.
Not surprisingly, the American Beverage Association dismissed the study saying:10: “This is just the latest report coming out of an institution with a long history of bashing beverages, and it undermines parents’ ability to make decisions themselves.”
The Sugar Industry Has Subverted Public Health Policy for Decades
PLOS Medicine recently published a paper11 titled: “Sugar Industry Influence on the Scientific Agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research’s 1971 National Caries Program: A Historical Analysis of Internal Documents.”
According to this paper, the sugar industry’s interactions with the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) significantly altered and shaped the priorities of the National Caries Program (NCP), launched in 1971 to identify interventions that would eradicate tooth decay.
As noted in the paper:
“We used internal cane and beet sugar industry documents from 1959 to 1971 to analyze industry actions related to setting research priorities for the NCP.
The sugar industry could not deny the role of sucrose in dental caries given the scientific evidence. They therefore adopted a strategy to deflect attention to public health interventions that would reduce the harms of sugar consumption rather than restricting intake.”
This industry-led deflection strategy included:
- Funding research on enzymes to break up dental plaque, in collaboration with allies in the food industry
- Funding research into a highly questionable vaccine against tooth decay. Another failed research goal included developing a powder or agent that could be mixed or taken with sugary foods to lessen the destruction to teeth caused by the Streptococcus mutans bacterium12
- Forming a task force with the aim to influence leaders in the NIDR (nine of the 11 members of the NIDR’s Caries Task Force Steering Committee, charged with identifying the NIDR’s research priorities, also served on the International Sugar Research Foundation’s Panel of Dental Caries Task Force)
- Submitting a report to the NIDR, which served as the foundation for the initial proposal request issued for the National Caries Program (NCP)
Omitted from the NCP’s priorities was any research that might be detrimental to the sugar industry, meaning research investigating the role and impact of sugar on dental health. According to study author Stanton Glantz,13 “the sugar industry was able to derail some promising research that probably would’ve been the foundation for regulation of sugar in food.” And, as further noted in the featured paper:
“The NCP was a missed opportunity to develop a scientific understanding of how to restrict sugar consumption to prevent tooth decay. A key factor was the alignment of research agendas between the NIDR and the sugar industry. This historical example illustrates how industry protects itself from potentially damaging research, which can inform policy makers today…
Most importantly, these findings illustrate how the sugar industry has protected itself from potentially damaging research in the past; a similar approach has also been taken by the tobacco industry. These findings highlight the need to carefully scrutinize industry opposition to the proposed WHO and FDA guidelines on sugar intake and labeling, respectively, to ensure that industry interests do not interfere with current efforts to improve dental public health.” [Emphasis mine]
Chemical Industry Writes its Own Laws Too…
The sugar- and junk food industries are not the only companies influencing government and media, and writing their own laws. Toxic chemical producers are notorious for this as well. Case in point: The Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which appears to have originated in the offices of the American Chemistry Council. As reported by San Francisco Gate:14
“It’s a high-stakes bill: If it becomes law, it would be the first update in 39 years of federal regulation of toxic substances like asbestos, formaldehyde and hundreds of other chemicals…. The draft bill, obtained by Hearst Newspapers, is in the form of a Microsoft Word document. Rudimentary digital forensics — going to “advanced properties” in Word — shows the “company” of origin to be the American Chemistry Council.
The ACC, as the council is known, is the leading trade organization and lobbyist for the chemical industry. And opponents of the Vitter-Udall bill have pounced on the document’s digital fingerprints to make the point that they believe the bill favors industry far too much… In its current form, the bill is opposed by many environmental, health and labor organizations and several states, because it would gut state chemical regulations….
“We’re apparently at the point in the minds of some people in the Congress that laws intended to regulate polluters are now written by the polluters themselves,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group…”Call me old-fashioned, but a bill to protect the public from harmful chemicals should not be written by chemical industry lobbyists. The voices of our families must not be drowned out by the very industry whose documented harmful impacts must be addressed, or the whole exercise is a sham,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said…”
Sugar and Beverage Industries Hard at Work Opposing Actions to Curb Sugar Consumption
Overwhelming amounts of research has now identified sugar in all its forms as a driving force in obesity and chronic disease, which is far more serious an issue than dental caries. As a result of the mounting evidence, there’s now a proposal to add a line to the nutrition facts label indicating the amount of added sugars in food. Listing the percentage of daily value for sugar on nutritional labels would more readily identify high-sugar foods, and could help rein in overconsumption caused by “hidden” sugars.
Not surprisingly, the sugar and beverage industries are hard at work opposing any and all federal actions that might dampen their sales. For example, the Sugar Association and the American Beverage Association have filed copious amounts of comments with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, challenging scientific associations between sugar and chronic disease. Industry lawyers have even gone so far as to claim that including “added sugars” on nutrition labels is unconstitutional.
Another effort being vehemently opposed by industry is the proposal to institute local, state, and/or federal taxes on soda. So far, the soda industry has spent $125 million opposing such proposals.15 Their efforts have been successful everywhere except Berkley, California, where the nation’s first soda tax was passed in November 2014.16 According to one estimate, the one percent per ounce tax may cut sales by about 10 percent.
- 1 15 Io9.com March 11, 2015
- 2 13 Time March 10, 2015
- 3 Washington Post March 11, 2015
- 4 12 NPR March 11, 2015
- 5 BMJ February 11, 2015; 350 [Epub ahead of print]
- 6 PBS.org January 1, 1996
- 7 Scientific American March 4, 2015
- 8 Star Tribune March 16, 2015
- 9 10 USA Today March 11, 2015
- 11 PLOS Medicine March 10, 2015 [Epub ahead of print]
- 14 SFGate March 16, 2015
- 16 USA Today November 5, 2014
- 17 New York Times November 12, 2014
- 18 Sugarscience.org
- 19 PLOS Medicine December 13, 2013
- 20 Sugarscience.org, 61 Names for Sugar
- 21 Fluoride Action Network, Effects of Fluoride on Brain
- 22 Newsweek March 10, 2015
- 23 Environmental Health 2015, 14:17
- 24 CDC.gov ADHD