A new study funded by food companies challenges recommendations by public health officials for people to cut sugar consumption, saying there is no clear link between consumption of added sugar and health effects. “Guidelines on dietary sugar do not meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations and are based on low-quality evidence,” said Bradley Johnston of The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, one of the co-authors in an article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM).
The review of research used as a basis for policymaking was funded by the International Life Sciences Institute, which includes among its members Coca Cola Co, PepsiCo Inc, Mars Inc and Hershey Co. The report questions the quality of evidence used by organizations including the U.S. government, the World Health Organization (WHO) and others that have advised people to cut down consumption of added sugars to promote health.
In a rare move, AIM published an editorial in the same issue that criticized the latest study as a “politicization of science” and said that recent guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Public Health England and WHO all show “remarkable consistency.”
“Our concerns about the funding source and methods of the current review preclude us from accepting its conclusion that recommendations to limit added sugar consumption to less than 10% of calories are not trustworthy,” wrote Dr. Dean Schillinger, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco. “Policymakers, when confronted with claims that sugar guidelines are based on ‘junk science,’ should consider whether ‘junk food’ was the [funding] source.”
Two of the study authors, Jennifer Erickson and Dr. Joanne Slavin, have previously promoted sugar in other studies stating: “Added sugars should be consumed at a minimum as they are often a source for surplus calories in the American diet,” and “there is no evidence suggesting that excess calories from added sugars specifically are worse than excess calories from any other food source.”
Time magazine reported – A Sept. 2016 report by Dr. Cristin Kearns, a dentist turned investigative researcher at UCSF, found that the sugar industry sponsored research that blamed fat for heart disease rather than sugar. Another report by Kearns found that sugar industry advocacy groups influenced federal cavity prevention recommendations through strategies like getting sugar experts on federal panels concerning tooth decay.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that between 2011 to 2015, more than 95 national health organizations accepted money from Coca-Cola or PepsiCo or both.
The International Life Sciences Institute was originally funded by a few large food, chemical and drug companies, but later it also widened its scope to include petroleum and mining. The ILSI grew very quickly into a powerful force, and began to also lobby for agriculture and genetic modification; pesticides and pharmaceuticals; confectionery; and eventually, even for cigarettes.
In 2004 the ILSI was were charged with paying off the World Health Organization’s Expert Consultation on Carbohydrates in Human Nutrition, effectively botching the WHO’s research on sugar and its health effects.
The BBC’s Panorama program The Trouble With Sugar uncovered evidence that ILSI affected the removal of the WHO’s director of the International Obesity Task Force, Derek Yach. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization launched an investigation into claims that a key consultation into how much sugar we should be eating was secretly funded by the sugar industry. Since its publication the report has been used by the sugar lobby to fight any suggestion of a link between sugar and health concerns.
The BBC interviewed Jim Mann, a highly respected nutritionist from New Zealand, who said: “When we arrived some of us were summoned by one of the officials who was involved in the organization of the consultation and told very clearly that it would be inappropriate us to say anything bad about sugar in relation to human health.”
Some experts Panorama spoke to claim they had agreed on a limit of between 55% and 75% on how much carbohydrate we should eat. But when the report came out the upper limit had gone.
The US Sugar Association (whose members include Coca-Cola, Pepsi and General Foods) lobbied Congress to withdraw $406 million of WHO funding because of its promotion of low-sugar intake to counter obesity.
ILSI has a history of working to infiltrate public health organizations. The World Health Organization has banned the ILSI organization from direct involvement in WHO (and related agencies) activities.