This past September, after a JAMA Internal Medicine report released information stating that sugar companies paid off research scientists from Harvard in the 1960s, people were outraged.
Author Cristin Kearns was looking around Harvard University’s basement and found documents that showed two of the university’s most successful nutritionists collaborated with the sugar industry to downplay sugar’s role in coronary heart disease.
According to the Huffington Post, this deal between the nutritionists and sugar companies delayed the scientific consensus that sugar can lead to heart disease for decades.
“It is challenging for us to comment on events that allegedly occurred 60 years ago, and on documents we have never seen,” said Sugar Association officials. “The Sugar Association is always seeking to further understand the role of sugar and health, but we rely on quality science and facts to drive our assertions.”
Fast-forward to the 21st Century, and the problem of biased scientific research on health is still occurring, only this time, it’s with big soda companies.
In a 2011 report, David Allison, a colleague of Andrew Brown, author of “Let Industry Fund Science,” claimed that there was little “solid evidence” that soda plays a significant role in the U.S. obesity crisis. During that report, however, Allison received money from Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Kraft, General Mills, Mars, and Nabisco.
Even worse, sugary junk foods don’t just contribute to obesity, but also diabetes and dental health issues. According to a study published in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry, soda is the most significant factor in dental erosion. Of the 3,773 study participants, wholly 79% had dental erosion and the most common cause was drinking sugary soft drinks.
Soft drink goliath Coca-Cola has given approximately $1.9 million to the University of Alabama at Birmingham for potentially biased research from 2011 to 2015.
“If I’m funded by industry, I’m five times more likely to come up with an industry-friendly result,” said Laura Schmidt, professor of health policy at the University of California at San Francisco and co-author of the Harvard sugar report. “That’s called bias.”