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The Sugar Industry Is Lying To You

Sugar Industry Lies Sugar Is Poison

For decades, Big Tobacco funded a multibillion dollar campaign to keep the truth about cigarettes from consumers. With scientists, marketers, lobbyists, and government officials on their payroll, they spread deceptive and misleading information. When their lies were exposed, Big Tobacco took a serious fall. Research into the risks associated with cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke gained traction, and before we knew it restaurants removed their “smoking sections,” cities and states had banned smoking in public places, and television networks had banned cigarette ads.

The coverup took decades. The cascading effects of dismantling these lies? Just a few years.

Why am I remembering this story? Because it gives me hope and encouragement. You see, we’re currently battling another giant industry culprit that’s been spreading lies and hindering public access to the truth for decades — Big Sugar.

According to Gary Taubes, Big Sugar’s day of reckoning is coming.

In a recent article of his for Mother Jones, Taubes delves into the story behind “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” He exposes the truth about how the industry kept scientists from asking about the risks of consuming sugar, how they swayed the public into passively accepting sugar’s safety.

In 1976, the sugar industry was facing a crisis. Taubes sets the stage:

Industry ads claiming that eating sugar helped you lose weight had been called out by the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration had launched a review of whether sugar was even safe to eat. Consumption had declined 12 percent in just two years, and producers could see where that trend might lead…. [A recent poll showed] that consumers had come to see sugar as fattening, and that most doctors suspected it might exacerbate, if not cause, heart disease and diabetes.

(source)

Enter the Sugar Association.

They launched a full out public opinion campaign to turn around sugar’s increasingly bad reputation. They used Big Tobacco’s tactics to “ensure that government agencies would dismiss troubling health claims against their products.” They paid for numerous studies to cast doubt on the hypothesis that sugar consumption is linked to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease, even going so far as to create councils of concerned scientists and health and medical practitioners which then published white papers and reports declaring sugar safe and healthy. They even heavily lobbied the FDA to grant sugar the coveted GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status that would dispel further scrutiny.

Over the subsequent decades, [sugar] would be transformed from what the New York Times in 1977 had deemed “a villain in disguise” into a nutrient so seemingly innocuous that even the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association approved it as part of a healthy diet. Research on the suspected links between sugar and chronic disease largely ground to a halt by the late 1980s, and scientists came to view such pursuits as a career dead end. So effective were the Sugar Association’s efforts that, to this day, no consensus exists about sugar’s potential dangers.

(source)

Of course, with sugar being passed off as relatively innocuous, it’s no wonder that our sugar consumption has steadily increased. Indeed, by 1999 the average American was eating more than twice the amount of sugar the FDA had deemed safe in 1986.

(source)

And with this increase in sugar consumption, we’ve naturally seen the increase the incidents of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Are the two inexorably linked? Does eating sugar really lead to these chronic diseases? Recent science, as well as life-experience, seems to suggest so.

This hasn’t stopped Big Sugar from whipping out the big guns and fighting tooth and nail to keep the public in the dark. For more on that, I highly recommend you read the full article on the sugar industry’s campaign of lies.

So, where’s the good news? The light at the end of the tunnel?

In you.

You guys are getting the word out — through blogs like this, through social media like Facebook. We are changing the world, swaying public opinion, one forkful of food at a time!

Want to know more about sugar and natural sweeteners?

My Natural Sweeteners of Choice
Sugar: The Bitter Truth
Are Natural Sweeteners Healthy?
Where To Buy Natural Sweeteners

(top photo by chrisjohnbeckett)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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28 Responses to The Sugar Industry Is Lying To You
  1. debbie
    November 27, 2012 | 8:32 am

    while I believe sugar is the culprit of many, many diseases, hfcs makes me even more ill. As more people become aware of sugar’s problems and it becomes more expensive to use, in comes the hfcs to replace it and not much of a “peep” there from the public. I wish people would wake up and realize what we are doing to our kids.

  2. Sharon
    November 27, 2012 | 9:35 am

    One more thing worth mentioning. Sugar is just as addictive as cocaine, it takes time and willpower to kick sugar addiction and it’s far from being easy.Every person who consumes sugar should try to go one day without sugar whatsoever to see for himself/herself how addicted we are.

    • Jim
      November 27, 2012 | 11:31 am

      Exactly right Sharon. A very good illustration of this is shown in some other consumption statistics. During the years of prohibition the sale of sugar skyrocketed and the addiction is tied to and very similar to alcoholism.

  3. Jacs in Africa
    November 27, 2012 | 10:42 am

    It’s only because Americans in general are greedy gluttonous sloths who consume vast amounts of EVERYTHING that sugar has become a problem.
    Moderation is the key: use just enough of it to sweeten your coffee – along with the odd block of chocolate, and you’ll be fine. Trust me!!!

    • Some guy
      November 27, 2012 | 3:08 pm

      Jacs, You are right and at the same time you are wrong. I went to the store to buy a turkey for Thanksgiving. Every common frozen turkey had SUGAR in the solution they use to ‘prevent it from drying out when it is frozen.’
      There is sugar in EVERYTHING that people commonly buy. Moderation is all well and good, but when a can of beans has added sugar… I read the ingredients list on every single thing I buy. Most people do not. Who would expect beans to have sugar added to them?

  4. Elena Vo
    November 27, 2012 | 11:22 am

    I’d like to repost this, how do I do that?

    • KristenM
      November 27, 2012 | 12:26 pm

      I don’t know what you mean by repost, Elena. Do you mean share on a social media site like Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+?

  5. Bonafide Tom
    November 27, 2012 | 1:16 pm

    there is a great book on this very topic written in the 60’s called “Sugar Blues” I forget who wrote it but it documents the global history of sugar and the problems it created. Awesome info for anyone interested how sugar became such a valuable yet destructive commodity.

    • KristenM
      November 27, 2012 | 2:54 pm

      I’ve got that book. You can get a new copy for just $6.99, or a used copy for about $1 here at Amazon.

  6. Sonja
    November 27, 2012 | 2:01 pm

    I’m born and raised in Europe and there (in my country at least) people are vehemently against sugar and white flour. Then I moved to the US and sugar is omnipresent. This post helps me understand why people are so complacent with sugar in the US. In my daughter’s school the children are rewarded with candy and are sometimes asked to bring candy to school (for parties, Halloween, or class projects). This would never be allowed where I’m originally from (Iceland).

    • KristenM
      November 27, 2012 | 2:15 pm

      How interesting!

      I cringe anytime kids receive candies or sweets as rewards. Granted, the sugar is a treat, but surely we can think of better rewards?

    • Nicole
      December 19, 2012 | 5:28 pm

      I lived in Denmark for eight years (2003-2011). Unfortunately, one must be just as careful there as in the US when purchasing products, as sugar is present in many items one wouldn’t expect it to be.

  7. MONICA
    November 27, 2012 | 4:23 pm

    I am not so convinced about sugar as I am about high frutose corn syrup. I was a teen in the 70’s, everyone drank sodas and koolaide and ate candy and pastry. No one was obese (well, maybe .5%) Today with high frutose corn syrup replacing sugar this countries health has plummeted. There is High frutose corn syrup in practically every processed sweetened food. I remember when it switched over because all of a sudden soda prices dropped along with other sugary foods. We have everything we need to sustain us, given to us, naturally to use. But NO- we are arrogant into believing we can create something better then what is found in nature. How stupid are we??? Every food nowadays has manmade chemicals and additives in it. Greedy corporations want more profit so they cut costs on ingredients. WE need go back to nature. Don’t eat their processed chemically enhanced food products- there is no nutrition in what we eat any longer. It’s time we take a step back and accept the fact that we can not create something better then what is already out there in nature. Sugar is not the culprit – man-made sugar is. Ban high frutose corn syrup – the corn growers are killing us with their corn by-products. They even feed corn to Cattle- which is not a food they are able to consume. So they die within 3 months of being feed corn-which man thinks is ok because they slaughter them by then. Fight for better food AMERICA we are smarter then what we are being told. We may not be skin and bones as depicted in impoverished countries but we are just as malnourished. Fat is not healthy either.

    • Matt
      November 27, 2012 | 4:50 pm

      I’d read sugar blues if I were you. HFCS is to cane sugar as Republicans are to Democrats,Basically the same thing.

      • MONICA
        November 27, 2012 | 5:07 pm

        For the study, published online Nov. 27 in Global Public Health, researchers looked at worldwide data collected from 2000, 2004 and 2007 by the Global Burden of Metabolic Risk Factors Collaborating Group that looked at diabetes prevalence and body mass index (BMI). The information came from 199 countries and included data on adults over 20. Researchers also looked at United Nations food consumption trends to see what diets were like in various countries, looking closely at the sugars and cereals that made up typical meals. High fructose corn syrup intake was recorded in 43 countries.

        Daily calories, BMI and total sugar intake was similar no matter where people lived around the world, the researchers found. However, countries with high levels of high fructose corn syrup consumption had significantly higher rates of diabetes.

        America came in number one in consumption: People consumed on average 55 pounds of high fructose corn syrup each year. Following the U.S. was Hungary (46 pounds), Slovakia, Canada, Bulgaria, Belgium, Argentina, Korea, Japan and Mexico. The high consumption countries had a Type 2 diabetes prevalence of about 8 percent.

        “Most populations have an almost insatiable appetite for sweet foods, but regrettably our metabolism has not evolved sufficiently to be able to process the fructose from high fructose corn syrup in the quantities that some people are consuming it,” Ulijaszek said in a press release. “Although this syrup can be found in many of our processed foods and drinks, this varies enormously from country to country.”

        Lowest consumption countries were Australia, China, Denmark, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Uruguay, which all consumed about 1.1 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per person per year. Their diabetes prevalence was around 6.7 percent.

        Diabetes rates rise in South, triple in Oklahoma
        371 million people have diabetes globally, about half undiagnosed
        Lack of sleep may lead to insulin issues

        Study author Dr. Michael Goran, co-director of the Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, said to WebMD that while we know what kind of sugar makes up table sugar — about 50 percent fructose, 50 percent glucose — the level of fructose fluctuates from 42 to 55 percent in high fructose corn syrup. A 2011 study in Obesity put that percentage even higher at 47 to 65 percent.

        He also believes there’s a difference with fructose in fruit, which has fiber that can slow down absorption, and fructose that’s refined. Researchers believe this higher level of fructose in corn syrup could be what’s driving Type 2 diabetes.

        “It’s a question of the good, the bad and the ugly, with an apple — which has about 10 grams of fructose in it — being good, the fructose in [table] sugar being bad, and the fructose in high fructose corn syrup being the ugly,” he added.

        Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association, said in a statement to HealthDay that the study doesn’t show that high fructose corn syrup causes diabetes. He pointed out that it is up to consumers to watch how many calories and sugars they consume in their diet.

        “Just because an ingredient is available in a nation’s diet does not mean it is uniquely the cause of a disease,” she said. Looking at the study data, she noted that “even though Japan consumes more high fructose corn syrup every year than Mexico, the prevalence rates of diabetes in Japan are about half of Mexico,” he said.

        Marion Nestle, professor of food, nutrition studies, and public health at New York University in New York, added to WebMD that both high fructose corn syrup and table sugar are made of the same two simple sugars, fructose and glucose, and the body reacts the same way to them.

        “(The study) is based on a questionable and highly debatable premise: that high-fructose corn syrup is significantly different in its physiological effects from sucrose, or table sugar,” she said.

  8. Scott
    November 29, 2012 | 2:25 pm

    Agree with your stance on sugar wholeheartedly. Thanks for fighting the good fight and supporting real, natural foods.

  9. Rina von Oppenheimer
    January 3, 2013 | 10:09 am

    Having Candida, it is imperative for me to avoid anything my body could convert to sugar. I stopped reading labels because everything contains sugar and/or HFCS. My solution? I only eat things in their natural state. Nothing processed or in any way altered. I make my own salad dressings, my own soups and cook everything from scratch… PERIOD! I do not even eat bread. The flower has been totally processed to death, even if it says “whole wheat”. Those loafs of bread contain so many chemicals and sugars…. not very health friendly. Since I have started avoiding all sugars, my weight went to normal and all weight issues are gone. It is a pleasure to eat healthy foods and I stopped craving sugar a long time ago.

  10. Martin
    February 5, 2013 | 11:36 pm

    One additional number to the statistics: US ranks #1 worldwide in the consumption of fructose at 25kg per capita annually.

  11. Dill
    March 26, 2013 | 2:06 pm

    Old article, but wanted to mention the health risks of aritificial sweetners… and can’t help but wonder if sugar really is the bad guy, or were they made out to be the bad guy so gmo agri-buisnesses could trump the market? Think about it… you mention Tobacco industry lies, all I’m saying is perhaps it’s agri-buisnesses that are doing the lying

  12. Akki Guldgrävare via Facebook
    May 18, 2014 | 7:05 pm

    start bee-keepimg and so avoid sugar. plant some stevia in your garden, too…

  13. Jill Herron Chapin via Facebook
    May 18, 2014 | 7:11 pm

    By making choices and living with the consequences thereof. Just like with tobacco.

  14. Karen Fiechtl via Facebook
    May 18, 2014 | 7:24 pm

    This is news?

  15. Gene Vacca via Facebook
    May 18, 2014 | 7:25 pm

    It’s about time the war on sugar begins. It all got too crazy and deregulated!

  16. Matthew Schomburg via Facebook
    May 18, 2014 | 8:13 pm

    I just bought the book “Pure, White, and Deadly” by John Yudkin.

  17. Krysta Barnhart via Facebook
    May 18, 2014 | 8:36 pm

    Organic GMO free cane sugar for baking! And watch labels, sugar is Everywhere!!

  18. CustomTattoo TheRick via Facebook
    May 18, 2014 | 10:00 pm

    AAAAaaa… Sugar..my very first addiction..

  19. Mary Light via Facebook
    May 19, 2014 | 6:07 am

    While I agree these and other industries are lying, I sure hope the culture finally, finally moves away from holding some sense that they must get their information from “industries”. There is now plenty of information out there to inform that this ingredient is nearly everywhere in processed food and that it creates disease , imbalance and pain. And frankly- SUGAR IS SUGAR, so don’t fool yourself that if you use “organic” sugar, or “coconut sugar”, or local honey, you can consume baked goods, desserts, and drinks with abandon.

  20. Anita
    May 23, 2014 | 5:09 am

    How to cure a sugar addiction? Drink 1 glass of sesame milk in the morning. No sugar cravings for the rest of the day (but watch out for after dinner … perhaps another glass of sesame milk around 4 o’clock?). Blending tahini and water with some dates also work in a pinch. Sesame milk = 1 L water + 1 cup sesame seeds + 2-3 medjool dates: strain before using.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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