Did The 1970s Sugar Industry Play Dirty With Cavity Prevention Programs?

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Did The 1970s Sugar Industry Play Dirty With Cavity Prevention Programs?

Did The 1970s Sugar Industry Play Dirty With Cavity Prevention Programs?

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Did shady actions by the sugar industry decades ago protect corporate profits at the expense of public health? A new study from PLOS Medicine dug into hundreds of internal sugar industry documents to uncover alleged wrongdoings. These efforts may echo the tactics of the tobacco industry to minimize the hazardous effects of smoking.

The PLOS paper argues that the sugar industry strongarmed the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) into tweaking the research agendas of the 1971 U.S. National Caries Program (NCP). The industry convinced the NIH that consumers should not be made aware of studies that would lead them to reduce sugary foods. These studies were duly eliminated from the plan to fight tooth decay in children, which continues to be a problem today.

Dental cavities, or tooth decay, runs rampant through society. Children are particularly susceptible. An estimated 42% of children have cavities in their baby teeth, and 59% of teenagers experience tooth decay in their permanent chompers.

What’s tragic about these statistics is that tooth decay is mostly preventable. This newly released study — led by health policy postdoc Cristin Kearns of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) — uncovered evidence that the sugar industry knew (as early as 1950) that a sugary diet is a primary cause of tooth decay. According to Kearns, the sugar industry “adopted a strategy to deflect attention” from this truth. How so?

Kearns alleges that the sugar industry did three things to persuade the NIH:

(1) Funded research on a vaccine that would eliminate tooth decay;

(2) Mixed an enzyme into sugary foods in an effort to curb the effects of plague;

(3) Infiltrated the membership of the National Institute of Dental Research that advised the NCP.

None of these three tactics mitigated the effects of a sugary diet upon consumers. The tactics did work as planned, however, by hindering the ability of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to warn customers of cavity-causing foods through labels.

The study’s co-author, Stanton Glanz, insisted, “Our findings are a wake-up call for government officials charged with protecting the public health, as well as public health advocates, to understand that the sugar industry, like the tobacco industry, seeks to protect profits over public health.” In response to these new findings, the Sugar Association refused to comment directly on the study’s findings and accused the USCF of “attention-grabbing headlines.”

Source: PLOS Medicine

Related topics guidelines, national institutes of health, nih, Sugar
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