- Sugar industry corrupts Harvard researchers, by Alan R. Gaby, MD
- Editors of New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet, as well as other prominent authorities, agree.
- Nutritional Medicine by Alan R. Gaby, MD, a reliable, easily readable source of solid research and safe, effective approaches to health care.
Industry’s Propaganda Campaign Exposed a Half-Century Later
by Alan R. Gaby, MD
In the 1960s, British scientist John Yudkin challenged the popular belief that saturated fat and cholesterol were the main dietary factors involved in the pathogenesis of coronary heart disease (CHD). Citing epidemiological data and other evidence, Yudkin argued that refined sugar (which at the time was primarily sucrose) was the most important dietary culprit. In the ensuing years, additional research solidified the link between dietary sugar and CHD. We now know that consumption of large amounts of sucrose or other refined sugars by humans can cause adverse changes in various cardiovascular disease risk factors, including an increase in serum levels of triglycerides, insulin, and uric acid; a rise in blood pressure; an increase in platelet adhesiveness; and a decrease in HDL-cholesterol levels.[i],[ii] We also know that feeding experimental animals (rabbits and monkeys) a high-sucrose diet results in the development of coronary and aortic atherosclerosis. In rabbits, the atherosclerotic lesions were more severe than those resulting from a high-cholesterol diet.[iii],[iv],[v]
By 1965, the sugar industry had recognized that Yudkin’s work was a threat to sugar sales and, through its Sugar Research Foundation, began a secret campaign to discredit the proposed link between sugar and CHD. Recently obtained Sugar Research Foundation documents from the mid-1960s have revealed that the Foundation paid large sums of money to well-known scientists in exchange for their writing an apparently biased review article that downplayed the negative effects of refined sugar.[vi]
The Sugar Research Foundation’s effort resulted in the 1967 publication of a two-part review article in the New England Journal of Medicine, titled “Dietary fats, carbohydrates, and atherosclerotic vascular disease.”[vii],[viii] The review was written by Frederick Stare (the chairman of the Harvard Department of Nutrition) and two professors of nutrition at Harvard. The authors did not disclose that the Sugar Research Foundation had paid them $6,500 (equivalent to $48,900 in 2016 dollars) to write the review.
A letter that had been sent by the director of research at the Sugar Research Foundation to one of the authors made it clear that the Foundation’s “particular interest” in funding the review article was to deal with the bad press that sugar had been receiving. The author replied that he was well aware of the Sugar Research Foundation’s interest, and that the authors would cover that topic as well as they could. The published review article discounted research showing that sucrose consumption increased triglyceride levels. The basis for rejecting that evidence was the claim that serum cholesterol is the only legitimate biomarker for CHD risk. The article also discounted a study showing that substituting sucrose with vegetables or with additional fat markedly improved serum cholesterol levels. The reason for ignoring that evidence was that these dietary interventions are supposedly not feasible. Observational studies linking higher sugar intake with a higher risk of CHD were also downplayed on the grounds that epidemiological evidence cannot prove causation.
In contrast to its harsh criticism of the sucrose research, the review article ignored many of the flaws in the research that purported to implicate dietary fat and cholesterol. Moreover, despite having previously argued that observational studies cannot prove causation, the article cited observational studies to support the contention that CHD is caused by dietary fat and cholesterol. The two-part article concluded that there is strong evidence that dietary saturated fat and cholesterol play a role in the causation of CHD, whereas evidence implicating sugar is minimal and of little practical significance.
The Harvard Nutrition Department’s pro-sugar bias was not lost on some of the avant garde nutritionists of the day. Noted author and Prevention Magazine columnist Carlton Fredericks often referred to Frederick Stare as the “Candy King of Cambridge,” and once remarked that Stare’s impending retirement promised to be his greatest contribution to the field of nutrition. Nevertheless, the review article that was secretly bought and paid for by the sugar industry helped solidify the consensus view that saturated fat and cholesterol, not sugar, was the cause of CHD.
Fast-forward a half-century. Now there is a growing consensus that the importance of saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet has been greatly underestimated. And while it is not yet generally accepted that refined sugar is a key factor in the causation of CHD, a significant body of evidence points in that direction. Of course, the sugar industry continues to deny that there is any connection at all between sugar consumption and heart disease.
I predict that sometime in the future there will be sufficient evidence to convince most doctors and scientists that sugar plays an important role in the causation of CHD. And while the sugar industry might eventually face product-liability lawsuits for having misrepresented the dangers of its product, the industry will at least be able to take comfort in the fact that having egg on your face is not as bad as having sugar in your veins.
Thanks so much to Dr. Gaby for allowing me to reprint the previous article. What follows are brief notes on the topic of “follow-the-money research” (also known as fraudulent research) exposed by “mainstream” medical authorities, who should know whereof they speak:
It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.
—Dr. Marcia Angell, physician and longtime editor-in-chief,
New England Journal of Medicine
From “Drug Companies and Doctors: A Story of Corruption,”
The New York Review of Books, January 15, 2009.
The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness.
—Dr. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet
The Lancet385:1380 (2015)
It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false.
—Dr. John Ioannidis, Stanford University Professor
Ioannidis, JPA (2005).“Why most published research findings are false.”
An extensive range of studies and lawsuits already document strategies by which pharmaceutical companies hide, ignore, or misrepresent evidence about new drugs; distort the medical literature; and misrepresent products to prescribing physicians.
—Donald W. Light, Joel Lexchin, and Jonathan J. Darrow
“Institutional Corruption of Pharmaceuticals
and the Myth of Safe and Effective Drugs”
Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics 2013
As of April 20, 2017, a free PDF copy may be downloaded from http://ssrn.com/abstract=2282014
With all of these reliable authorities telling us that a considerable proportion of medical research is not reliable—especially when that research is backed by patent medicine companies or other large financial interests—what can we do to take care of our own health if we didn’t go to school to learn how to analyze medical research ourselves?
We need to take as much responsibility as we can for our own health! Most of us go online to read about whatever health problem we may have, and the experiences others may have had dealing with those same health problems. OF COURSE, we can’t believe everything we read online any more than we can believe all published medical research, but from time to time something may ring true.
Take all the information you’ve collected to a physician you can trust—one who really listens, and takes the time to answer your concerns. If you can, especially if a health problem is a serious one, take the time to get a second opinion. Be wary if all the options presented are patent medicines and conventional surgical procedures.
One other thing to consider: Get your own copy of Nutritional Medicine, 2nd Ed., by Alan R. Gaby, MD.
Dr. Gaby knows how to read research publications. He’s been doing it seemingly non-stop since his medical school days in the 1970s. Just as importantly, he knows how to summarize the research findings in plain English!
He also knows when to “call out” research that’s not done properly, overreaches in its conclusions, or really needs to be repeated because something doesn’t seem right. What’s in this book, you can believe is the real thing! And wow, is there a lot in this book. Since the first edition, the number of publications reviewed and listed in the footnotes has increased from 16,800 to 18,500!
The book (available in print and/or electronic versions) is exceptionally well organized. If there’s any good research information at all about any health problem in which you may be interested, it’s very, very likely “in the book,” summarized in English, and easy to find, even in the print version. As might be expected, the electronic version is super-easy to search; here are a few words directly from Dr. Gaby about that, who knows much more about electronic publishing than me:
It is a searchable PDF. It is distributed by a company called VitalSource. They have their own program called Bookshelf, which you have to download onto your computer or device in order to read and search through the book. Purchasing the eBook allows it to be downloaded to a maximum of two computers and two mobile devices at the same time. People who purchase the book get sent download instructions as well as a “redemption code,” which is what they use to download my eBook, as opposed to the other eBooks the company distributes. It’s actually very easy to set up and download.
While the best features of this book are its incredibly complete contents, its exceptional reliability (no fraudulent research allowed), and its easy search ability, another really good feature is the price. The first edition of Nutritional Medicine was priced at $295 for the print or electronic version, but the second edition—despite the 1,700 additional research reports it takes into consideration—is priced at $195 for either the print or the electronic version. If you decide to buy both the print and electronic versions, you don’t pay $195 + $195 = $390, instead it’s $270 total, $135 for the print version, and $135 for four (4!) copies of the electronic version. Go to www.doctorgaby.com to buy your books!
This is an incredible bargain for a massive amount of easily searchable information about what anyone can do for themselves (remember, there are no patent medicine recommendations in Nutritional Medicine) to improve and maintain good health for as long as possible. Sometimes help may be required from a physician skilled and knowledgeable in natural medicine, sometimes not, but the real research-backed possibilities are all there.
Thank you to Dr. Alan Gaby for his decades of work accumulating all this data, and all the time he has taken to put all of it into English we can easily understand. And of course thank you also to Dr. Beth Gaby, who (as Holly does for me) has helped make his efforts possible!
Editor’s note: This article was revised on 6/5/17 to include the correct web address for Dr. Gaby’s Nutritional Medicine. Please visit www.doctorgaby.com to purchase your copy today!
[i]Szanto S, Yudkin J. The effect of dietary sucrose on blood lipids, serum insulin, platelet adhesiveness and body weight in human volunteers.Postgrad Med J. 1969;45:602-607.
[ii] Israel KD, et al. Serum uric acid, inorganic phosphorus, and glutamic-oxalacetic transaminase and blood pressure in carbohydrate-sensitive adults consuming three different levels of sucrose. Ann Nutr Metab. 1983;27:425-435.
[iii]Murakami M. Dietary sugar in the management of arteriosclerosis and hypertension.Jpn J Med. 1968;7:114-115.
[iv]Nakai T. Experimental studies on the pathogenesis of arteriosclerosis. The effect of high-carbohydrate and high-fat diets on the development of vascular lesions.Jpn Circ J. 1971;35:419-423.
[v]Murakami M. Effect of sugar on atherosclerosis in nonhuman primates.JpnCirc J. 1973;37:1033-1038.
[vi]Kearns CE, et al. Sugar industry and coronary heart disease research: a historical analysis of internal industry documents. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176:1680-1685.
[vii]McGandy RB, et al. Dietary fats, carbohydrates and atherosclerotic vascular disease. N Engl J Med. 1967;277:186-192.
[viii] McGandy RB, Hegsted DM, Stare FJ. Dietary fats, carbohydrates and atherosclerotic vascular disease.N Engl J Med. 1967;277:245-247.