Sugar: Another Corporate America Snow Job

by Pitt Griffin on January 9, 2017 · 1 comment

in Industrial food

Anyone who grew up, from the 1970s on, ‘knows’ that the biggest threat to cardiovascular and heart health – as well as the largest contributor to obesityis fat. Specifically saturated fat. The problem is, they are wrong. The body needs fat. We may eat too much – but we must eat some.

Sugar is different. In “The Case Against Sugar“, Gary Taubes, a long time writer on diet and chronic illness, asks the provocative question: How many cigarettes is an okay amount for your child to smoke?

It’s a preposterous question. And easy to answer – none. Taubes demands we ask the same question of sugar. With the same answer. Because, like nicotine, sugar has no benefits and multiple dangers, so why eat any?

Which raises the question: If sugar is so bad, how is it that there haven’t been the same health warnings against it as there were against fat? The answer is simple. The sugar industry and its decades-long and aggressive campaign to point the finger of blame elsewhere.

We ate low-fat and got fat. What was the cause?

The New York Times reported this duplicity in an article entitled: ‘How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat’:

The [internal sugar industry] documents show that a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat.

Often revealed – and too readily forgottenis the fundamental immorality of corporate America. Profits are God and the customer/employees merely an expendable means to that end. Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, GM’s ignitions, Takata airbags – the list is long and dishonorable.

But worse even than them – and the poster child for an industry so desperate to protect the cash cow that they knowingly sacrificed their customers – is Big Tobacco. Well before modern medical studies, it was apparent that tobacco users were sicker than abstainers. Doctors noticed a higher rate of lung cancer among smokers as early as 1900.

British medical authorities stated the link between smoking and cancer and heart disease in 1952. And in 1964, the Surgeon General’s reportSmoking and Healthadded the federal imprimatur to the connection.

But far from being abashed, the tobacco industry dug in – and fought every individual suit brought against it – eventually winning them all. In large part, because the courts were unaware that the tobacco industry itself had known that cigarettes caused disease as early as the 1950s.

But tobacco wasn’t the first 20th-century industry to put profits above people. That honor goes to lead manufacturers. Lead in paint was known to cause mental retardation in children as early as 1904. By 1909 interior white lead paint had been banned in France, Belgium and Austria. It took the United States until 1978 to do likewise.

Leaded gasoline was introduced as an anti-knocking measure. Workers producing TEL (the lead additive in gasoline) went psychotic by the hundreds – many died. Red flags were raised. But a supremely self-confident, young pathologist, Robert Kehoe – based on some ill-designed experimentsconvinced medical authorities that TEL wasn’t harmful.

Of course, not only was it harmful, but TEL spread lead everywhere. Carried aloft with the car‘s exhaust, it ended up in the air, soils, and waterways.

The lead industry, allied with car manufacturers and the petroleum companies were so vigorous in their defense of poison that leaded gas was sold until 1976.

So for most of the 20th-century, the lead industry caused mental defects in 1,000s of kids and polluted America without penalty. Finally, in 1970, we got around to creating the EPA and gave it the power to clean shit up. And all live happily ever after.

No, kiddies, they didn’t. The wicked witch (aka conservative corporate enablers) whined about government overreach and personal freedom and demanded the disbandment of the forces of cleanliness. Their policy boils down to “America, home of profit, land of pollution” or “power to the plutocrat”.

Let me add a coda to this tale of corporate sociopathy. Beyond brain damage and lives cut short, health deficits, dirty water and visible air, the biggest victim of expedient science is the belief in the independence of science itself.

People who use science only to advance their own agenda assume that is how others use science – and spread that cynicism as gospel. Let the large numbers of Americans who deny evolution and reject global warming stand as witness to the debasement of knowledge.

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