This Week in Sugar

A not-so-sweet round-up of news and research on sugar companies.
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Sugar cubes. (Kurtis Garbutt/Flickr)

Sugar cubes. (Kurtis Garbutt/Flickr)

Over the past seven days, a few interesting examples of sugar-company wrongdoing have come to light. Here's a round-up, including sad news for sugar-producing countries and for sugar-loving individuals (like me).

1. SUGAR INDUSTRY GROUPS AFFECT WHAT SCIENTISTS STUDY

In the 1960s and 1970s, lobbying groups kept federally funded scientists from studying how much Americans should cut back on sugar to prevent cavities, a new analysis found. Instead, interest groups pushed out research on an anti-cavity vaccine, as well as other unlikely solutions to tooth decay. Next up: The same researchers who uncovered sugar science-muddling strategy will also check whether there's evidence that cane and beet sugar companies deliberately obscured the still-controversial science of whether eating too much sugar causes diabetes and heart disease.

2. SUGARY DRINK AND SNACK COMPANIES PAY TO APPEAR IN "HEALTHY SNACK" STORIES

Blog posts suggesting folks drink Coke mini-cans appeared in more than 1,000 websites in honor of American Heart Month, the Associated Press reports. As it turns out, Coca-Cola paid nutritionists to write them. As we mentioned above, the scientific evidence for whether excess sugar causes heart disease is still uncertain, but independent researchers suspect it does. What's not open to debate: One regular-sized serving of soda provides almost an entire day's worth of recommended added sugar for men—and more than one day's worth for women—according to the American Hearth Association.

Soda consumption is declining in the United States, but Coca-Cola says it could grow sales with smaller cans that cost more per ounce, the AP reports.

3. SUGAR PRICES ARE UNUSUALLY LOW

World sugar prices reached a six-year low a few days ago, the Wall Street Journal reports. The culprit was not increased awareness about sugar's effects on health, but economic and political troubles in Brazil, the world's largest sugar exporter. Today, however, as the Brazilian currency's value recovered slightly, so have sugar prices. "There was little news to suggest the moves in the market were driven by sudden changes in supply-demand fundamentals, the Wall Street Journal reports.

4. BONUS: SUGAR IS ALL BASICALLY THE SAME

When we talked with public-health and dentistry researcher Cristin Kearns about her work on sugar lobbying's effects on science, we asked her whether different types of sugars—such as table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and other alternatives—make a difference to dental health. She answered: "They're essentially the same. They're very, very similar products."

At least when it comes to dental health, just avoiding one type of sugar, such as high-fructose corn syrup, won't cut it. You'll need to lower your sugar consumption altogether.

This Week In explores ongoing revelations and research on trending news topics.

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