Matthew Vogel, DMD
Sugar is terrible for your health. We all know it– kids, parents, neighbors, teachers, dentists, and every health worker out there. But now there’s something juicier than just a health risk… there’s a scandal.
According to a new story published in PLOS Medicine this month, the sugar industry has been involved in a cover-up on par with the tobacco industry’s fight against public health campaigns that warned about the dangers of tobacco use.
In the story, the recent discovery of documents dating back to the 1960s– that’s over four decades ago– reveal that both the sugar industry and the National Institutes of Health were aware of sugar’s dangerous health impact long before it became public knowledge.
However, rather than informing the public and making policy changes that would have controlled the use of sugar in foods and beverages, the National Institutes of Health allowed the sugar industry to redirect their efforts. Instead of making sugar’s dangers public, the sugar industry, with the NIH, conducted expensive and ultimately futile research in an attempt to keep sugar on the market.
If you’re wondering what kind of research that may be (a magic pill? some kind of confectionery alchemy?) here’s a great example: in order to ward off the cavities that a sugar-heavy diet will accrue, the Sugar Association attempted to manufacture a powder that consumers would ingest following a sugary meal. The powder was meant to kill streptococcus mutans, a common cavity-causing or bacterial species.
Another experiment the sugar industry conducted in the name of dental health was an attempt to create a “cavity vaccine.” In short, the sugar industry did everything they could to keep their product on the market. While this research was being conducted, the public continued to eat sugar– and pay to for it.
The WHO, the National Institutes of Health (having redirected their energies to prevention, an area far more likely to succeed in improving health than a cavity vaccine), the American Dental Association, and other well-recognized public health organizations all agree that limiting sugar intake is the number one way to avoid cavities and other sugar-related diseases.
It has been decades since the research to circumvent sugar’s impacts, and yet public health efforts are still hard at work to reach people, and many communities continue to eat diets that are far too high in sugar. There’s no way to know, but the misdirected management of handling sugar’s health impacts may contribute to the fact that people still eat high sugar diets.
Sugar is added to a lot of packaged foods– you’d be surprised. Pasta sauces, condiments, dried fruit, and even fruit juice (you’d think it would be sweet enough!) are all big players in the hidden sugar scene.
To help limit your sugar intake, read the labels on the food you buy. Cooking at home is your best option for ensuring healthy food. If you want more suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask us at your next appointment with your dentist in Gresham!