Last year, we were warned. The sugar industry was unwilling to let sales drop, just because its product helped make people obese and diabetic. Posts like this became more frequent. It wasn’t just about the dangers of too much sugar–it was about how to distract the American consumer from those dangers. And where did the sugar lords go to learn how to carry out this deception? As Kristina Bravo, of TakePart found, they went to the most experienced, best financed, slickest dressers of wolves in sheeps’ clothing out there: Big Tobacco. Cast doubt on the science with the most pliable experts that boatloads of money can buy. Give them their industry-serving talking points. Make fun of the “worry warts” who took the warnings of danger seriously.
Ms. Bravo quotes a University of California professor of pediatrics, who has found that the “food industry knows that when they add [sugar] to food, you buy more. They don’t add it for any other reason. You can’t tell how much sugar has been added, and the food industry wants it that way.” Sound familiar? It should. Just replace the word “sugar” with “nicotine,” and the fond memories should come flooding back.
Well, the warnings have turned out to be prescient. In today’s New York Times (August 10, 2015) is an article entitled, “Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets.” Coke has put together a team of scientists to preach the message: “To maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise and worry less about cutting calories.” But many health experts warn that this message is misleading, that it works to deflect the role of Coke and its ilk in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and that Coke is cynically trying to convince us that exercise can offset a poor, sugar-filled diet, even though most studies show that exercise “has only minimal impact on weight compared with what people consume.” This is more sophisticated stuff than just making fun of former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “nanny state” of regulated soft drinks.
Why is it important to be wary of Big Sugar’s effort to emulate Big Tobacco? Because like Big Tobacco, which has lost the trust of anyone who knows about its role in creating tort reform, Big Sugar has lots to hide, and lots at stake, financially, if it fails in that effort. For example, something you are unlikely to hear about from Big Sugar is that academic scientists who publish in, say, The Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, have found several troubling connections between the consumption of sugar and Alzheimer’s disease. But why worry about that when you’ll be too confused to remember much of anything at all about your eating history?