CHD: fat or sugar?

20 Sep 2016

A report suggests the sugar industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD.

CHD: fat or sugar?

In a paper entitled “Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research - A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents” published by JAMA, the authors note that early warning signals of the coronary heart disease (CHD) risk of sugar (sucrose) emerged in the 1950s.

The authors examined Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) internal documents, historical reports, and statements relevant to early debates about the dietary causes of CHD and assembled findings chronologically into a narrative case study. The SRF sponsored its first CHD research project in 1965, a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of CHD and downplayed evidence that sucrose consumption was also a risk factor. The SRF set the review’s objective, contributed articles for inclusion, and received drafts.

The SRF’s funding and role was not disclosed, the authors note. Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, the authors say that their findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in CHD.

The authors conclude that 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.