A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Dishonesty Go Down….

Evidently, you can’t even trust research from Harvard. At least, not all of it.

A number of media outlets have reported that in the 1960s,

prominent Harvard nutritionists published two reviews in a top medical journal downplaying the role of sugar in coronary heart disease. Newly unearthed documents reveal what they didn’t say: A sugar industry trade group initiated and paid for the studies, examined drafts, and laid out a clear objective to protect sugar’s reputation in the public eye.

The consequences of this deception are several, and they are all deeply disturbing.

First–and most obvious–is the misdirection of subsequent research and government efforts to improve heart health. Thanks largely to the reputation of Harvard and its research faculty, the publications sent other medical researchers down different paths, and retarded accurate evaluation of the role sugar plays in heart disease.

The trade group solicited Hegsted, a professor of nutrition at Harvard’s public health school, to write a literature review aimed at countering early research linking sucrose to coronary heart disease. The group paid the equivalent of $48,000 in 2016 dollars to Hegsted and colleague Dr. Robert McGandy, though the researchers never publicly disclosed that funding source, Kearns found.

Hegsted and Stare tore apart studies that implicated sugar and concluded that there was only one dietary modification — changing fat and cholesterol intake — that could prevent coronary heart disease. Their reviews were published in 1967 in the New England Journal of Medicine, which back then did not require researchers to disclose conflicts of interest.

These, and similar, research reports led to the belief that fat, not sugar, was the culprit, and Americans went on a low-and-no fat binge. What was particularly pernicious about the hundreds of new products designed to meet the goal of lowering fat content was the food industry’s preferred method of making low-fat offerings taste good: the addition of sugar. Lots of sugar.

The health consequences of this dishonesty–however grave– are ultimately less troubling than the damage done to academic credibility.

We live in an era where significant numbers of people reject scientific facts that conflict with their preferred worldviews. News of academic corruption provides them with “evidence” that science is a scam and scholarship–especially scholarship that debunks their beliefs– is ideologically tainted.

Even the best, most rigorous research studies are only as good as the hypotheses tested and the methodologies employed. Some will inevitably prove to be flawed, no matter how honestly conducted. That’s unfortunate enough, but when industry can “buy” favorable results, it further undermines the credibility of all research results.

The discovery of the sugar industry’s role in twisting nutritional research results joins what we now know about the similar machinations of cigarette companies and fossil fuel industries.

In 2009, I wrote a book titled Distrust, American Style, examining the causes and effects of our mounting levels of social distrust. I wish I could say that time has made the book and its conclusions obsolete–but I can’t.

It’s understandable–but deeply disturbing– that so many Americans no longer trust science, business, government or each other.  Without trust, social capital erodes, suspicion replaces collaboration, and societies disintegrate.


  1. As with everything else, it’s all about the money and nothing else. I expect that Harvard pays its professors something larger than minimum wage. It seems reasonable to conclude their opinions and research couldn’t be bought; but one of them just had to have that summer home in Kennebunkport and that check was the down payment.

    I can imagine the professor sitting on his deck sipping Bordeaux, musing on how successful his “research” was and thinking about how to get another “project” like the literature review to cover some mortgage payments or get that Mercedes S class. Oh, i can see how envious his colleagues might become.

  2. We, the American public, must rely on research, findings and reports by “experts” in all fields. They have become less and less reliable due to the “follow the money” basis of their very existence in some cases. Today’s blog is a major case in point. The fact that Harvard research findings cannot be trusted to report “the truth, the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth” is a sad lesson to learn. The Harvard researchers do not pay for the omissions in the sugar report; they, with access to the truth, can apply it their own health situations. The rest of us are victimized…again.

    I have mentioned my grandson with autistic-like disabilities due to his mother being prescribed Terbutaline to prevent premature contractions while pregnant. This medication had only been approved by the FDA for human consumption for asthma. It was also being tested and used as birth control in dogs…yes, canines, not ugly pregnant women! Who approved that use; the American Medical Association or the American Veterinary Association? Because many physicians were prescribing the medication to prevent premature contractions, the “reliable” information had to come from someone, somewhere in the medical field. Heart problems began developing in the mothers resulting in medical research. It is only in the past few years medical researchers began studying the effects of Terbutaline on the fetus with disastrous findings.

    We are living today, due in major part to the media, in an age that fits the title of an old TV program, “Who Do You Trust”. Or maybe we simply need the “Password” to know who to trust to tell us the truth.

  3. 50 years of biased Cannabis research has literally ruuned millions of lives and cost over a trillion dollars…all based on lies.

  4. Monsanto has also paid university scientists to conduct “research” that disputes the harm caused by glyphosate.

  5. Some things have changed. Most legitimate research publications now require that funding sources be identified as part of the article. That does not totally rule out funding bias research but raises a flag. There can still be media bias by journalists under the influence and by publications depending on advertising revenue. A lack of morals which often occurs when money is a contributing factor in many programs is a well known human weakness.

  6. Having spent much of my life working with people who actually do research, I have a hard time seeing a “literature review” as actual research. They should, at a minimum, also disclose what was reviewed, what was left out, and why they discounted what was left out.

    Most people are unaware of the fact that large chunks of Pharma money that is spent on “research” is actually being spent on already approved drugs to show that they work better than a competitor’s drug. It boils down to marketing research, but it is still shown as part of the cost of drug development.

    Today, the respected journals require disclosure by the investigators of any conflicts of interest. That is a giant leap forward.

  7. Pardon my bias, but if we need to blame someone let’s blame the successes of Joseph Goebbels and his propaganda genius for all of this mess, not capitalism. Let’s be honest, the history of socialism is nothing to brag about when it comes to propaganda and deception. Our problem is that we have a PROPAGANDA GAP when it comes to the truth. And the bought off [$$$) media keeps it that way.

    To quote JoAnn’s legitimate bias, just “Follow the money”

  8. Years ago when I was a kid there was a game show, a very popular one, called “Who do you trust”. Normally, it would pit couples against one another to see who was telling the truth in answering the questions that the host, one of whom was Johnny Carson, would pose.

    Given Sheila’s piece today, maybe we need another version of this show’s format that could be used as a test of the veracity of anyone running for office. To do so however, since the major media can’t really be trusted, perhaps it could be hosted on PBS by the League of Women Voters. Unlike virtually every source of information regarding American politics that has been so thoroughly tarnished they still have credibility.

  9. Have any of you watched “That Sugar Movie”? It’s a great documentary of someone that was sugar free and decided to document and see what the effects of consuming sugar would be for him. He had a doctor monitor him as he went through the 2-3 months sugar consumption. It was eye opening what changes happened to the guy’s body. I think Netflix offers it for a few pennies and if you have a spare hour or so, that would be my suggestion for your weekend.

    BBC offers documentaries like this all of the time. The US media needs to consider being more like the BBC.

  10. Interesting I came across that the pharmaceutical industry is fighting the legalization of pot, in fact INSYS has spent $500K to defeat an effort legalize pot in Arizona. Insys Therapeutics just donated $500,000 to Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy. The group is fighting to defeat Proposition 205, which could make cannabis legal in Arizona. Voters will weigh in on the initiative this fall. https://www.greenrushdaily.com/2016/09/14/insys-therapeutics-donated-500000-fight-medical-marijuana/.

    Then we also have Agent Orange sprayed all over S.E. Asia and all the denials and cover-ups of it’s toxicity.

  11. AgingLGRL,

    “BBC offers documentaries like this all of the time. The US media needs to consider being more like the BBC.”

    Shortly after my longtime companion, Barbara, passed away in 2009, I went to New York and spent 10 days living on the campus of Union Theological Seminary. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stayed in the same dorm that I stayed in while he was attending Union. Barbara had graduated from there in the mid fifties with a Masters Degree in Theology. She had unbelievable courage and I wanted to conduct my on personal root cause analysis of it. And that was the right place to do it. Union houses the most complete library of Bonhoeffer’s work in the U.S. By the way, Bill Moyers is one of the trustees.

    To make a long story short. Bonhoeffer is best known for his writings on “civic courage” which he lived to the fullest when he decided to leave Union and return to Germany and face the rise of the Nazi Movement.

    To me, an important reason we are falling apart in the U.S. is the lack of CIVIC COURAGE. It’s especially so with the media. We’ve “thrown the baby out with the baby water.”

    The Germans of the 20’s and 30’s displayed outstanding CIVIC COURAGE in standing up against the Nazi movement. But after the war, probably for good reasons, we rejected all that German history.

    Now , probably, for the same good reasons, we reject the Confederacy, even though they displayed outstanding courage fighting overwhelming odds.

    The unfortunate by-product of this type of total rejection, in my opinion, is a form of CIVIC COWARDICE, especially displayed in our media, and present, for the most part, in all our other major institutions much more so than you can find in European institutions such as the BBC or the Guardian.

    If you’re kept blind on the German opposition to the Nazi movement, then we don’t look like the CIVIC COWARDS we are becoming. And, consequently, there are no real heroes. No one willing to take heroic risks. No one to take on a Donald Trump and all the RISKY consequences.

    he-ro-ic (hi ro’ik) adj. l. of or like a hero 2. of or about a hero and his deeds 3. daring and RISKY—n. [pl.] heroic behavior, talk, or deeds—he-ro’i-cal-ly adv.

  12. The solution to problems like this is the same solution that keeps reappearing here.

    We are still educating as we did 100 years ago but what we need to learn is 10X.

    People need to be taught skepticism. Don’t fall for words, believe evidence and plausibility.

    It amazes me the crap that people fall for in the field of nutrition that is merely bizarre marketing dreams. To me the wonder is that adults fall for them.

  13. Pete,

    “It amazes me the crap that people fall for in the field of nutrition that is merely bizarre marketing dreams. To me the wonder is that adults fall for them.”

    To the vast fundamentalists part of the population, both Black and White, religion is the answer to all of their problems. Marketing dreams are much like the sermons which are heard on Sundays that are not based on facts or evidence, but belief. They don’t want to be educated. Remember, It’s a free country.

  14. A Spoonful of Sugar will NOT help a load of crap go down!!! WTF is it a major media event to have Donald Trump DECIDE that President Barack Obama was actually born in the United States of America??????

    I am so sick of the media putting his ugly face and every word he utters as Breaking News to be announced with his entire group of campaign workers and American flags behind them. He now believes Honolulu, Hawaii is part of this country; does he know that the earth revolves around the sun – not him – and the sun does not revolve around the earth. Will somebody please feed him too much sugar; maybe he will finally implode from an overdose of EGO.

  15. So who is paying off the no-no climate change researchers? What does it take to arrive at truth these days? Would sworn affidavits of the researchers help?

  16. Joann, when I was a 3rd year law student, I was clerking for a small law firm in Indy, probably ’87 or ’88. We filed a lawsuit on behalf of a small child whose mother had been given terbutaline

  17. Sadly, it seems a part of our population can be bought off one way or another. I recently watched a part of the movie Gandhi again. The British were in charge but without willing, and able native collaborators they could have never held on to India. I still marvel at how the British convinced people of color from their colonies to fight for God, King and Country in the trenches of WW 1, and later in WW2.

    It is an illusion to think any institution or leadership: education, religious, or media, cannot be bought off by something, like money or prestige, etc. The 1% know human faults and weaknesses and how to prey on them. The puppet masters do not need to find a lot people to carry their water, just a few will do. Not only do the collaborators perform the dirty work they offer a shield and take the fall.

  18. to stop labor. The little boy had severe asthma. We didn’t get very far with it because there was no good research – a few studies speculated about the pathway by which the drug worked, and the type of side effects it might cause, but there were no “epidemiological” studies of neonates.

    In the hearing on the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, one of the drug company’s lawyers argued that we had no case because the drug had been prescribed for the mother, not the baby. I noted that it didn’t matter because the baby would nonetheless be exposed to it. But because there had been no studies of the babies, we had no evidence.

    I was so frustrated by that case; no one had done any controlled research involving outcomes for the babies, but babies were nonetheless being given the drug in utero. As far as I was concerned, the FDA failed in its duty towards those children.

  19. Ginny; that is unbelievable! My grandson was born in 1999; they knew that long before that Terbutaline was a serious problem and continued prescribing it!!! I have tried to get my daughter-in-law to look for legal help for this, no idea why she hesitates. Have also tried to get her to apply for SS Disability, he will be 18 next May so they have dealt with the problem for 17 1/2 years. It places a major problem on the entire family and controls their lives; due to the possibility of violence against his 14 year old brother (even though he is on meds), they have to pay for child care because they are both home schooled. If you know of anyone I can tell them to contact for information, it would help. Thanks for this post; very important to us.

  20. Gerald Stinson,

    The Kochs and all of the other energy corporate billionaires are paying scientists to claim that climate change is not true.

  21. The media, as usual, is completely misinterpreting this revelation. It happened fifty years ago during a period when “commissioned research” was common and conflict-of-interest statements not routinely required.

    While full 3rd-party background checks would be my preferred method of checking for COIs, most journals will merely blacklist authors who are caught – for a real academic that’s enough of a deterrent, but of course many authors are not real academics.

    Which brings me to “commissioned research.” It’s important that people realize how thoroughly they are being manipulated. For every “Monsanto Shill” that the left-wing moonbats claim to identify, there is at least one other “Big Organic” paid “researcher” pushing the dubious value of a farming method whose primary purpose is higher profit margins. Glyphosate is not dangerous unless you take a bath in it and drink the bathwater.

    Eric Lipton’s so-called “exposé” of undue industry influence on GMO research was facilitated by FOI demands from the American Organic Growers group, and he specifically left out information that was mitigating and exculpatory and that interview records prove that he had. In the interest of “telling a good story” (a story, indeed) a pulitzer prize winning reporter sold a slanted clickable advert. The NYT has zero credibility, because every.single.time. I read a piece there on any topic I know anything about the facts & the interpretation are wrong.

  22. Nancy,

    “The Kochs and all of the other energy corporate billionaires are paying scientists to claim that climate change is not true.”

    They Koch Brothers and their associates in crime are not only a mortal danger to the planet’s atmosphere but also to the interconnected socio/political/economic web that is responsible for maintaining life on the planet. Without them, Donald Trump would be just another mega-rich sociopath.

    The following is from “The Power Elite” by C.Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956)p. 360-1:

    “The American elite is not composed of representative men whose conduct and character constitute models for American imitation and aspiration. There is no set of men with whom members of the mass public can rightfully and gladly identify. In this fundamental sense, America is indeed without leaders. Yet such is the nature of the mass public’s morally cynical and politically unspecified distrust that is readily drained off without real political effect. That this is so, after the men and events of the last thirty years, if further proof of the extreme difficulty of finding and of using in America today the political means of sanity for morally sane objectives.”

    “America–a conservative country without any conservative ideology–appears now before the world a naked and arbitrary power, as in the name of realism, its men of decision enforce their own crackpot definitions upon world reality. The second-rate mind is in command of the ponderously spoken platitude. In the liberal rhetoric, vagueness, and in the conservative mood irrationality, are raised in principle. Public relations and the official secret, the trivializing campaign and the terrible fact clumsily accomplished, are replacing the reasoned debate of political ideas in the privately incorporated economy, the military ascendancy, and the political vacuum of modern America.”

    “The men of the higher circles are not representative men: their high position is not a result of moral virtue; their fabulous success is not firmly connected with meritorious ability. Those who sit in the seats of the high and the mighty are selected and formed by the means of power, the sources of wealth, the mechanics of celebrity, which prevail in their society. They are not men selected and formed by a civil service that is linked with the world of knowledge and sensibility. They are not men shaped by nationally responsible parties that debate openly and clearly the issues this nation now so unintelligently confronts. They are not men held in responsible check by a plurality of volunteer associations which connect debating publics with the pinnacles of decision. Commanders of power unequaled in human history, they have succeeded within the American system of organized irresponsibility.”

  23. Yeah I know…..but I simply cannot make it through this so called erection season without copious amount of sugar, in any form.

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