COVID VaccinesReturn to WorkMental Health

This New Study Slamming Sugar Guidelines Has a Big Conflict of Interest Problem

December 20, 2016, 10:02 PM UTC
Sugar being poured into tea cup, close-up
Photograph by Getty Images

A new study is pushing back hard against the emerging global health consensus that people should reduce their sugar consumption. But the research itself is getting plenty of pushback from public health officials who point to the study’s links to the food industry, including companies like Coca-Cola (KO), Hershey’s (HSY), and Kraft Foods (KRFT).

The study was a review of sugar guidelines that was largely critical of the existing evidence for said current guidelines, which recommend cutting down on foods and beverages with added sugars in order to fight diseases like obesity and diabetes. But it was funded by the International Life Sciences Institute—a group funded by the very aforementioned Big Food multinationals.

Click here to subscribe to Brainstorm Health Daily, our brand new newsletter about health innovations.

Critics immediately pounced on the study authors’ connection to the food lobby.

“This comes right out of the tobacco industry’s playbook: cast doubt on the science,” said Marion Nestle, an NYU professor and nutrition expert, in an interview with the New York Times. “This is a classic example of how industry funding biases opinion. It’s shameful.”

But lead author Bradley C. Johnston of the University of Toronto and McMaster University cautioned against dismissing the review just because it was industry-funded. “We hope that the results from this review can be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake,” he said, adding that the study wasn’t encouraging more consumption of sugar—merely more prudence around the existing guidelines and more robust scientific evidence to support them.