Since We Last Spoke: Sugarcoating the Story

New twists on past stories.
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New twists on past stories.

(Photo: Al Barry/Getty Images)

Editor’s Note: A version of this story first appeared on on September 12th, 2016, with the headline “The Scientific Paper a Sugar Industry Group Commissioned for $50,000.” This edited version was published in our January/February 2017 print issue.

In Pacific Standard’s January/February 2016 issue, we profiled Cristin Kearns, a researcher at the University of California–San Francisco who uncovered evidence of a decades-long effort by the sugar industry to maintain scientific uncertainty around whether their product elevates the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Kearns made headlines again in September with her latest finding, published in JAMA Internal Medicine: The Sugar Research Foundation, an industry-organized group, paid Harvard University scientists $6,500 in 1965 (nearly $50,000 today) to write a review of studies on the effects of eating fat and sugar. The review concluded that, to avoid heart disease, people should eat less saturated fat and cholesterol — but didn’t make the same recommendation for sugar. Marion Nestle, a New York University food policy professor, in an editorial accompanying Kearns’ research, wrote, “Is it really true that food companies deliberately set out to manipulate research in their favor? Yes, it is, and the practice continues.”