Is Big Business Covering Up the Truth About Sugar?

We know sugar is bad for us. The daily intake of sugar in the United States is far above the recommended amount and high consumption has been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But if we know it’s so bad, why do we keep eating so much of it?

Part of the answer is in what sugar does to us. Eating sugar stimulates the brain to release dopamine, which makes us feels good. Much like other drugs that do the same (like heroin), our body craves that feeling and wants more, which is why there’s more and more consensus over the link between sugar consumption and sugar addiction.

But it’s not just our physical craving of sugar that’s leading to our consumption, it’s also big industry, and its influence on food policy.

Big industry has big interests, and when it comes to sugar, there’s evidence that companies are misusing science, and sometimes even “burying” it, to advance their own interests.

The Center for Science and Democracy just released a new report, titled “Added Sugar, Subtracted Science: How Industry Obscures Science and Undermines Public Health Policy on Sugar.” The authors write, “A major factor that has kept us in the dark about sugar’s detrimental impacts is the role that industry has played in keeping it that way. Sugar interests — food and beverage manufacturers along with industry-supported organizations such as trade associations, front groups, and public relations firms — have actively sought to ensure Americans’ consumption of high levels of sugar continues.”

According to Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst at the Center for Science and Democracy, a few key bullet points from the report include:

  • In response to an inconvenient scientific paper, the Corn Refiners Association considered funding a counter study. But if that research didn’t confirm their position, one consultation wrote, “we can just bury the data.”
  • In an effort to influence school nutrition rules, General Mills told the USDA that with the exception of dental issues, “sugar intake has not been shown to be directly associated with obesity or any chronic disease or health condition” — a claim that runs counter to the science implicating sugar in a variety of health problems, from obesity to heart disease.

According to the report, companies with sugar interest have also threatened “to suspend funding to the World Health Organization” and used “trade associations, front groups, and PR firms to deceive the public.” Sound a little like another big industry we know well that starts with a big T?

While ultimately it’s up to the consumer to choose what they want to eat, it’s also up to the government to provide guidelines so we know what we are consuming. The FDA is currently considering an update to the nutrition label on packaged food that would require manufacturers to label whether or not there are added sugars in the product. In the United States, adults get 13% of their calories from added sugars; publicizing whether or not there are added sugars in a food product would provide for more transparency and educated consumer decisions.

The sugar industry doesn’t like that legislation, however, resulting in a letter signed by six trade groups (including the National Confectioners Association, Corn Refiners Association and the American Beverage Association) that offered to fund a study on label effectiveness. According to the Center for Science and Democracy, that’s the kind of funding that leads to misinformed science, and bad food policies that are keeping us unhealthy.

Photo Credit: Vox Efx

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9 months ago


Teresa W.
Teresa W.11 months ago

Kyle, sugar is actually addictive:

But, of course, it's less dangerous than artificial sweeteners.

Kyle N.
Kyle N.about a year ago

Sugar is a critical component in body function. Just like any excess mineral that is taken in with food is simply is peed out, kinda like drinking beer. Sugar is in no way addictive, but is still by far healthier, better for you than any of the artificial chemical sweeteners. all of the aspertames are a neurotoxin, splenda is a chlorocarbon (poison) includes a trace amount of sugar, sprayed with acetone before being coated in phosphoricchloride (industrial cleaner)

Sonali G.
Sonali G.about a year ago

For all of those sugar lovers here on Care2 I would highly recommend buying organic blackstrap molasses to replace your sugar at home. It is highly nutritious and even reputed to be safe for diabetics. You can get 6 x 750g jars for under £18 online which ain't bad.

Aleksander Wielki
Aleksander Wielkiabout a year ago

We need healthly sugar :D

Aleksander Wielki
Aleksander Wielkiabout a year ago

I love sugar and all candys wy i cant eat it :(

Geoff P.
Geoff P.about a year ago

It's hard to avoid

Nanette A.
Nanette a.about a year ago

thanks for the article :)

Jane C.
Jane C.about a year ago

Why wouldn't they?

Karen P.
Karen F.about a year ago

The pic of the fruit loops or whatever the multi coloured horrors accompanying this story are really freaks me out. Really seriously Mums and Dads, do you feed your kids this STUFF?