I ’m aware that most people – especially members of the media – aren’t like me. I get wrapped up in my world of medicine, and sometimes, it consumes my life.
But when certain studies and revelations come out and don’t become ‘front page news’, well, it still shocks me. My guess is that the media has been more preoccupied with the global political upheaval as of late, so I’ll share with you what they haven’t gotten around to yet.
A study that’s nothing less than a bombshell recently blew my mind. Published in one of the most respected journals in the world, it blows the lid off one of the biggest scandals in modern medicine’s research on the food we eat.
It turns out that in the 1960s, Big Sugar put a ‘spin’ on their product that involved telling outright lies and denying established medical facts, putting millions of sugar-eaters at risk for decades to come. And not only did the corporate fat cats manage to suppress evidence that sugar caused heart disease, but they did something else with their big bucks.
They shifted the blame to an innocent scapegoat: dietary fat. So, let me start by setting the record straight. The fact is: Sugar can cause heart disease, and it can kill you. A 2014 investigation found a significant link between eating more sugar and an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.1
The truth finally comes out!
This story is a juicy one because it was initiated by someone who stumbled upon this damning evidence almost accidentally. The article and sleuthing was done by Dr. Cristin Kearns, a young dentist-turned-researcher at UC San Francisco who started a quest to find out why the medical establishment would turn a very obvious blind eye to the perils of sugar.
It started in 2007 at a dental conference, when she picked up some government sponsored pamphlets on how to educate diabetics. She was shocked to see that there was no mention on sugar consumption – only information about weight loss and dietary fat modification.
When she inquired why this obvious fact was omitted, she was told that there was no solid evidence about the link between sugar and dental disease, and therefore it was not included in the government-sponsored recommendations.
This blew her mind (as it should yours), and she realised that she wanted to dedicate her life to figuring out how we got to such a delusional state. Little did she know that a few short years later, she would find solid data that showed that the sugar industry paid Harvard researchers for a ‘smoke screen’ that would deflect any negative attention or association with cardiovascular disease and/or death as a result of sugar intake.
How sugar threw fat under the bus
Through her perseverance, fortitude, and – quite honestly – courage, Dr. Kearns has uncovered a story almost as big as Watergate.
Back in the 1950s, doctors and researchers were trying to find out why so many people were dying of heart attacks and strokes. With the increased rates of obesity, it was obvious that there was a dietary link; but there was a debate whether the main culprit was dietary fat (cholesterol) or sugar.
As reported in the September 2016 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, the sugar industry realised that they needed to turn the blame away from their side of the debate, so they basically bought their way out of getting any bad press.2
In fact, they reached into their deep pockets and ‘bribed’ a top cholesterol expert from Harvard to hammer the proverbial nail in the fat/ cholesterol coffin with a review article in the New England Journal of Medicine.3
And it did the trick, too – because the blame got shifted away from sugar. According to the JAMA abstract, Dr. Kearns ‘examined Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) internal documents, historical reports, and statements’ that show that the sugar industry paid the 2016 equivalent of $50,000 to two Harvard experts to write a review article about the root cause of heart disease and to try to settle the ‘sugar versus fat’ debate.
At first glance, this seems noble and innocuous; but in hindsight, it was not a coincidence that the Sugar Research Foundation sought out and paid one of the top cholesterol experts in the world – from Harvard, no less – to write the review.
In fact, at that time, Dr. Mark Hegsted was one of the top nutritional scientists in the world. He’s so famous in the world of ‘cholesterol’ that there’s an equation still used to this day called the ‘Hegsted Equation,’ used to calculate how the consumption of fat can affect your cholesterol levels.
Over the years, he held many prestigious roles in the national branches of nutrition and agriculture. Thus, he had tremendous influence over national policy and recommendations.
So, it’s a very big deal that there is direct evidence that someone with his stature and influence was paid by an industry that influenced his review of the science.
This nosey dentist actually found letters between Dr. Hegsted and the sugar industry – in boxes of ‘papers’ found in ‘dusty’ basements of libraries (including Harvard’s Countway Library of Medicine) – that basically prove their intent was to set fat up as the culprit for heart disease and to discredit the existing, damning research on sugar.
Dr. Kearns even found proof that they ‘ignored’ crucial data and were compensated to produce a certain conclusion.
Who can you trust?
The real nail in the coffin for the sugar industry (as well as the now-deceased Dr. Hegsted, and his research) is the review article he published in the New England Journal in the 1960s did not disclose the fact that he was compensated by the Sugar Industry.
The fascinating irony to this story is that this corruption was done legally. Nowadays, it’s standard practice that researchers, scientists, and doctors have to disclose any financial relationships that they have while submitting their research – but at the time, there was no rules about disclosure of financial backing of studies and papers.
Big Sugar basically pulled off a huge heist… and no crime was committed! The good news is that as of the 1980s, medical journals and researchers have to disclose their financial ties to the
research. But that means that all medical research before 1984 could be lies, directly influenced by money!
Here’s why this is important when it comes to your own health: Doctors base almost every medical decision on these ‘studies,’ which form the ‘standard of care’ that every doctor must follow. If studies can be tainted – like this one was – then the entire medical profession is in jeopardy. Know your enemy (but make sure you’ve got the right one)
Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or ability to go back and look at every single study published and see if there was a financial corruption and collusion. And other researchers may not get as lucky as Dr. Kearns did in her research.
So, it’s clear to me that we need to pay close attention to future studies about dietary recommendations the government makes and who funds the research.
As Dr. Kearns wrote in the study’s abstract, ‘Policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry– funded studies and include mechanistic and animal studies as well as studies appraising the effect of added sugars on multiple CHD biomarkers and disease development.’
The study in question from the 1960s was just about food and was a review article about food choices and heart disease.
What else do you think that the drug companies and Big Pharma were willing to pay to influence back then? And what are they doing now to influence studies?
The scary truth is that Dr. Kearns’ sleuthing has not even scratched the surface of what drug companies are willing to do to sway researchers and policy makers about prescription drugs and the deception that is most likely occurring when it comes to incredible sums of money.
This research provided such clarity to me about how we got in to the mess that we’re in now with the medical establishment’s fascination with cholesterol and fat. Relatively soon after these review articles were published by such an influential scientist, the medical establishment singled out its main enemy: fat. Thus, the low-fat craze began… and there was no turning back.
This faulty premise that fat is the enemy (and not sugar) is the main reason that statin drugs were allowed to become such a juggernaut – and we’re still very far away from stopping statins from being the be-all and end-all for heart disease prevention.
But now, this new research is a big dagger in the world of statins. It’s also a scientifically-proven chink in the armour of sugar that FINALLY explains why we are so obviously losing the battle of heart disease and obesity.
At least we are making some progress, and we’ve started to lift the veil of corrupt influences on our medical decisions.
In the end, I’m ecstatic that Dr. Kearns’ discovery turns out to be another feather in the cap of the Paleo Diet, which is both void of sugar and higher in fat. I’ve been advising my patients for many years to limit – or even stop – their sugar intake. I’d take meat, good proteins, and healthy fats over sugar any day of the week. And so should you.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.