In 1965, researchers conducted an experiment on rats exploring the health effects of sugar and fat. The rats were divided into two groups: one group of rats was a fed diet containing 75% fat and no sugar, while the other group was fed a diet containing 15% fat and 60% sucrose. The results of this experiment led the researchers to believe that rats fed sucrose, a simple carbohydrate, developed thiamine deficiency, often leading to cardiovascular disease, while more complex carbohydrates helped create gut bacteria that synthesized thiamine (Nutritional Reviews, 1965). Based on internal documents, the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) has discounted evidence linking sucrose consumption to cardiovascular disease.
This research prompted funding, among the SRF, to understand the relationship between sugar and any metabolic effects related to chronic disease beyond its caloric effects. The foundation (which has organizational ties to the Sugar Association, the International Sugar Research Foundation [ISRF], and ISRF's successor, and the World Sugar Research Organization) led a group of researchers, referred to as Project 259, to study the effect of sugar on gut bacteria in 1967. The researchers observed a positive association between rodent sugar-rich diets and triglyceride levels, which contributed to higher urinary concentrations of beta-glucoronidase, a well-established marker of bladder cancer (Paigen, Peterson and Paigen, 2017). Albeit, the Sugar Association has consistently denied that sucrose has any metabolic effects related to chronic disease.
In 2016, the Sugar Association issued a press release criticizing findings from a study published in Cancer Research using multiple mouse models that suggested that dietary sugar induces increased tumor growth and metastasis when compared to a nonsugar starch diet. The Sugar Association stated that no credible link between ingested sugars and cancer has been established. In contrast, evidence suggests that that the sugar industry terminated funding of an animal study that was finding unfavorable results with respect to the association between dietary sugars and cancer, with possible translational importance to humans (Sugar Association, 2016).
Researchers have discovered internal documents that suggest the sugar industry muffled research indicating a significant relationship between sugar and adverse health effects including, heart disease and cancer (Kearns, Apollonio & Glantz, 2017). And this isn't the first time the sugar industry has been caught in the act. Researchers uncovered evidence suggesting the sugar industry systematically misrepresented research linking sugar to cancer, obesity, and heart disease (Kearns, Schmidt and Glantz, 2016).
In response to the study, the sugar industry released a statement, saying: “The article we are discussing is not actually a study, but a perspective: a collection of speculations and assumptions about events that happened nearly five decades ago, conducted by a group of researchers and funded by individuals and organizations that are known critics of the sugar industry” (Foley, 2017).
Basu, T. (2017). Researchers Publish Bombshell Report That Suggests Sugar Industry Conspiracy. [online] The Daily Beast. Available at: https://www.thedailybeast.com/researchers-publish-bombshell-report-that-suggests-sugar-industry-conspiracy?source=twitter&via=desktop [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].
Foley, K. (2017). An investigation suggests Big Sugar hid evidence of sucrose’s health effects. [online] Quartz. Available at: https://qz.com/1134313/sugar-health-effects-50-years-ago-the-sugar-industry-hid-evidence-from-the-public/ [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].
Kearns, C., Apollonio, D. and Glantz, S. (2017). Sugar industry sponsorship of germ-free rodent studies linking sucrose to hyperlipidemia and cancer: An historical analysis of internal documents. PLOS Biology, 15(11), p.e2003460. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2003460
Kearns, C., Schmidt, L. and Glantz, S. (2016). Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research. JAMA Internal Medicine, 176(11), p.1680. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.5394
Nutritional Reviews. (1965). Dietary fats and intestinal thiamine synthesis in rats. Nutrition Reviews, 23(11), pp.334-336. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.1965.tb02053.x
Paigen, K., Peterson, J. and Paigen, B. (2017). Role of Urinary β-Glucuronidase in Human Bladder Cancer. [online] Cancer Research. Available at: http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/44/8/3620.long [Accessed 3 Dec. 2017].
The Sugar Association. (2017). The Sugar Association Response to University of Texas MD Animal Study Linking Sugar to Cancer - The Sugar Association. [online] Available at: https://www.sugar.org/the-sugar-association-response-university-of-texas-md-animal-study-linking-sugar-to-cancer/ [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].
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