dietary recommendations shaped by the sugar industry

Special Communication |

Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research

A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents FREEONLINE FIRST

Cristin E. Kearns, DDS, MBA1,2; Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, MSW, MPH1,3,4; Stanton A. Glantz, PhD1,5,6,7,8
JAMA Intern Med. Published online September 12, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.5394
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In the 1950s, disproportionately high rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality in American men led to studies of the role of dietary factors, including cholesterol, phytosterols, excessive calories, amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in influencing CHD risk.1 By the 1960s, 2 prominent physiologists were championing divergent causal hypotheses of CHD2,3: John Yudkin identified added sugars as the primary agent, while Ancel Keys identified total fat, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol. However, by the 1980s, few scientists believed that added sugars played a significant role in CHD, and the first 1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans4 focused on reducing total fat, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol for CHD prevention.

Although the contribution of dietary sugars to CHD is still debated, what is clear is that the sugar industry, led by the Sugar Association, the sucrose industry’s Washington, DC–based trade association,5 steadfastly denies that there is a relationship between added sugar consumption and CVD risk.6,7 This Special Communication uses internal sugar industry documents to describe how the industry sought to influence the scientific debate over the dietary causes of CHD in the 1950s and 1960s, a debate still reverberating in 2016.

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