Sugar Industry Has Subverted Public Health Policy for Decades, Study Finds

By Dr. Mercola

Who writes the policies for public health, and how? This is an important question, and if your initial answer is that policy is created by medical experts, based on the most scientifically compelling evidence available, you'd actually be wrong.

As recent media reports1,2,3,4 have revealed, dental policy, for example, is heavily influenced by the sugar industry. As a result of this collusion, dental policy not only downplays the impact that sugar and processed junk food has on dental health, it also ignores the voluminous evidence demonstrating the toxic nature of fluoride. The situation is virtually identical in the UK.

As noted in the British Medical Journal (BMJ):5 "An investigation by The BMJ has uncovered evidence of the extraordinary extent to which key public health experts are involved with the sugar industry and related companies responsible for many of the products blamed for the obesity crisis through research grants, consultancy fees, and other forms of funding."

Cavities Are Not the Result of Fluoride Deficiency

Blaming cavities on lack of fluoride is like blaming obesity on lack of exercise. The scientific evidence does not support either of these notions, and yet they persist—in large part thanks to industry lobbyists working to obscure the facts.

In the case of dental policy, industry lobbying has played a key role in perpetuating the fluoride myth rather than attacking the real source of the problem, which is rooted in a diet too high in sugars and too low in vital nutrients.

The sugar industry actually operates in much the same way as the tobacco industry back in its heydays.6 For over 30 years, the tobacco industry knew that nicotine was addictive and caused lung cancer, and this information was purposefully withheld from the public.
Big Tobacco executives even lied during Congressional testimony, stating they had no knowledge of adverse health effects.

Today, Big Sugar is being equally evasive about fessing up the truth, despite overwhelming evidence showing that excessive sugar consumption—which is part and parcel of a processed food diet—is a key driver of obesity, metabolic dysfunction, chronic disease and, of course, dental cavities.

According to the World Health Organization7 (WHO), people across the US and Europe need to cut their sugar consumption in half in order to reduce their risk of tooth decay and obesity.
But how well will such advice take hold when the soda industry is working hand-in-hand with some of our most trusted nutrition experts, including dietitians,8 some of whom recently contributed online posts for American Heart Month that included mini-sized coca-colas in their healthy snack recommendations!

Sure, the can may be smaller, but these mini-colas still contain about 5.5 teaspoons of sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup. For an adult with insulin resistance, this one mini-can alone maxes out your fructose allotment for the day.

Honestly, this is like Big Tobacco making mini-cigarettes and doctors promoting them as a healthy alternative for smokers...

Many Parents Still Grossly Misinformed on Sugar Hazards

The WHO's guidelines call for reducing sugar consumption to 10 percent of daily calories or less, which equates to about 50 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar for adults. Ideally, the WHO says, your intake should be below five percent. This is more in line with my own recommendations.

I typically recommend keeping your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day if you're in good health. If you are insulin resistant, diabetic, obese, or have high blood pressure, heart disease, or other chronic disease, I suggest cutting it down to 15 grams per day until your health and weight have normalized.

It's important to remember that added sugar hides in most processed foods, beverages, and condiments (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which research has shown to be far more hazardous to your health than glucose or table sugar).

Fruit juices are also chockfull of added sugars, yet many still mistakenly consider fruit juice to be a healthy beverage choice, especially for young children.

As noted in a recent study9 from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at University of Connecticut, parents have been grossly mislead by marketing and labeling, and have failed to get the message that sweetened drinks are just as hazardous to their children's health as soda.

According to lead author Jennifer Harris, who is also the director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center:

"Although many parents know that soda is not good for children, many still believe that sugary drinks are healthy options. The labeling and marketing for these products imply that they are nutritious, and these misperceptions may explain why so many parents buy them."
What's worse, nearly half of all parents surveyed for this study also thought that flavored waters were healthy, which is a gross miseducation about the facts.

Not surprisingly, the American Beverage Association dismissed the study saying:10: "This is just the latest report coming out of an institution with a long history of bashing beverages, and it undermines parents' ability to make decisions themselves."

The Sugar Industry Has Subverted Public Health Policy for Decades

PLOS Medicine
recently published a paper11 titled: "Sugar Industry Influence on the Scientific Agenda of the National Institute of Dental Research's 1971 National Caries Program: A Historical Analysis of Internal Documents."

According to this paper, the sugar industry's interactions with the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) significantly altered and shaped the priorities of the National Caries Program (NCP), launched in 1971 to identify interventions that would eradicate tooth decay.
As noted in the paper:

"We used internal cane and beet sugar industry documents from 1959 to 1971 to analyze industry actions related to setting research priorities for the NCP.

The sugar industry could not deny the role of sucrose in dental caries given the scientific evidence. They therefore adopted a strategy to deflect attention to public health interventions that would reduce the harms of sugar consumption rather than restricting intake."

This industry-led deflection strategy included:
  • Funding research on enzymes to break up dental plaque, in collaboration with allies in the food industry
  • Funding research into a highly questionable vaccine against tooth decay. Another failed research goal included developing a powder or agent that could be mixed or taken with sugary foods to lessen the destruction to teeth caused by the Streptococcus mutans bacterium12
  • Forming a task force with the aim to influence leaders in the NIDR (nine of the 11 members of the NIDR's Caries Task Force Steering Committee, charged with identifying the NIDR's research priorities, also served on the International Sugar Research Foundation's Panel of Dental Caries Task Force)
  • Submitting a report to the NIDR, which served as the foundation for the initial proposal request issued for the National Caries Program (NCP)

Omitted from the NCP's priorities was any research that might be detrimental to the sugar industry, meaning research investigating the role and impact of sugar on dental health.

According to study author Stanton Glantz,13 "the sugar industry was able to derail some promising research that probably would've been the foundation for regulation of sugar in food." And, as further noted in the featured paper:

"The NCP was a missed opportunity to develop a scientific understanding of how to restrict sugar consumption to prevent tooth decay. A key factor was the alignment of research agendas between the NIDR and the sugar industry. This historical example illustrates how industry protects itself from potentially damaging research, which can inform policy makers today...

Most importantly, these findings illustrate how the sugar industry has protected itself from potentially damaging research in the past; a similar approach has also been taken by the tobacco industry. These findings highlight the need to carefully scrutinize industry opposition to the proposed WHO and FDA guidelines on sugar intake and labeling, respectively, to ensure that industry interests do not interfere with current efforts to improve dental public health." [Emphasis mine]

Chemical Industry Writes its Own Laws Too...

The sugar- and junk food industries are not the only companies influencing government and media, and writing their own laws. Toxic chemical producers are notorious for this as well. Case in point: The Frank Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which appears to have originated in the offices of the American Chemistry Council. As reported by San Francisco Gate:14

"It's a high-stakes bill: If it becomes law, it would be the first update in 39 years of federal regulation of toxic substances like asbestos, formaldehyde and hundreds of other chemicals.... The draft bill, obtained by Hearst Newspapers, is in the form of a Microsoft Word document. Rudimentary digital forensics — going to "advanced properties" in Word — shows the "company" of origin to be the American Chemistry Council.

The ACC, as the council is known, is the leading trade organization and lobbyist for the chemical industry. And opponents of the Vitter-Udall bill have pounced on the document's digital fingerprints to make the point that they believe the bill favors industry far too much... In its current form, the bill is opposed by many environmental, health and labor organizations and several states, because it would gut state chemical regulations....

"We're apparently at the point in the minds of some people in the Congress that laws intended to regulate polluters are now written by the polluters themselves," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group..."Call me old-fashioned, but a bill to protect the public from harmful chemicals should not be written by chemical industry lobbyists. The voices of our families must not be drowned out by the very industry whose documented harmful impacts must be addressed, or the whole exercise is a sham," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said..."

Sugar and Beverage Industries Hard at Work Opposing Actions to Curb Sugar Consumption

Overwhelming amounts of research has now identified sugar in all its forms as a driving force in obesity and chronic disease, which is far more serious an issue than dental caries. As a result of the mounting evidence, there's now a proposal to add a line to the nutrition facts label indicating the amount of added sugars in food. Listing the percentage of daily value for sugar on nutritional labels would more readily identify high-sugar foods, and could help rein in overconsumption caused by "hidden" sugars.

Not surprisingly, the sugar and beverage industries are hard at work opposing any and all federal actions that might dampen their sales. For example, the Sugar Association and the American Beverage Association have filed copious amounts of comments with the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, challenging scientific associations between sugar and chronic disease. Industry lawyers have even gone so far as to claim that including "added sugars" on nutrition labels is unconstitutional.

Another effort being vehemently opposed by industry is the proposal to institute local, state, and/or federal taxes on soda. So far, the soda industry has spent $125 million opposing such proposals.15 Their efforts have been successful everywhere except Berkley, California, where the nation's first soda tax was passed in November 2014.16 According to one estimate, the one percent per ounce tax may cut sales by about 10 percent.

The Truth About Sugar

Large sums of money have been spent, and scientific integrity has been tossed by the wayside, in order to convince you that added sugars are a "staple" nutrient that belongs in your diet; and that health problems like obesity, chronic disease, and dental caries are due to some other issue—be it lack of exercise, too much saturated fat, or lack of fluoride. Clearly, the sugar industry's ability to influence policy for public health and research put us decades behind the eight-ball, as it were. It's really time to set the record straight, and was created to do just that.17

To counter the propaganda provided by profit-driven industry interests, dozens of scientists at three American universities have created a new educational website18 aimed at making independent research that is unsoiled by industry cash available to the public.

The sugar industry has not only subverted efforts to investigate the role of sugar in dental caries. The same applies to research looking at sugar's impact on other health problems as well. Case in point: A report19 published in PLOS Medicine in December 2013 looked at how financial interests influence outcomes in trials aimed to determine the relationship between sugar consumption and obesity. The report concluded that studies with financial ties to industry were five times more likely to present a conclusion of "no positive association" between sugar and obesity, compared to those without such ties. points out that many people are unaware of just how much sugar they're actually consuming every day, primarily because added sugars hide in 74 percent of processed foods under more than 60 different names. For a list, please see's "Hidden in Plain Sight" page.20 Even foods that are typically considered "healthy" can contain shocking amounts of added sugar. Fruit flavored yogurt, for example, can contain upwards of 19 grams of sugar; 12 grams of which is added sugar. For someone with insulin/leptin resistance, this one small serving of yogurt alone will put you over your daily recommended limit for total sugar!

Tips for Reducing Your Added Sugar Intake

The easiest way to dramatically cut down on your sugar and fructose consumption is to switch to a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, as most of the added sugar you end up with comes from processed fare; not from adding a teaspoon of sugar to your tea or coffee. Other ways to cut down on the sugar in your diet includes:

  • Cutting back on the amount of sugar you personally add to your food and drink
  • Using Stevia or Luo-Han instead of sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. You can learn more about the best and worst of sugar substitutes in my previous article, "Sugar Substitutes—What's Safe and What's Not"
  • Using fresh fruit in lieu of canned fruit or sugar for meals or recipes calling for a bit of sweetness
  • Using spices instead of sugar to add flavor to your meal

Fluoride Is NOT the Answer to Tooth Decay

Instead of focusing on the real cause of dental caries, which is excessive sugar consumption, industry interests were allowed to misdirect scientific inquiry toward prophylactics like fluoride instead. However, decades of research into fluoride have not only failed to support its purported benefits; it actually shows that the health dangers of fluoride far outweigh the marginal dental benefits it might offer. Dental caries can be effectively prevented with means other than fluoridation, thereby avoiding the adverse effects of this cumulative toxin.
Over time, accumulation of fluoride in your body can lead to serious health concerns, from hypothyroidism to skeletal fluorosis and much more. The neurological effects are particularly disconcerting. For example, 43 human studies21 have linked moderately high fluoride exposures with reduced IQ. Recent research also claims to have found a strong correlation between water fluoridation and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
As reported by Newsweek:22

"It's the first time that scientists have systematically studied the relationship between the behavioral disorder and fluoridation, the process wherein fluoride is added to water to prevent cavities. The study,23 published in the journal Environmental Health, found that states with a higher portion of artificially fluoridated water had a higher prevalence of ADHD. This relationship held up across six different years examined...

In the study, the scientists produced a predictive model which calculated that every one percent increase in the portion of the US population drinking fluoridated water in 1992 was associated with 67,000 additional cases of ADHD 11 years later, and an additional 131,000 cases by 2011, after controlling for socioeconomic status."

In Delaware and Iowa, where water supplies are heavily fluoridated, the diagnosed ADHD rate is 14 percent—or one in eight kids, aged four to 17. For comparison, the national ADHD rate24 reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is 11 percent for kids in the same age bracket. William Hirzy, a former risk assessment scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) commented on the results saying: "The numbers of extra cases associated with a one percent increase in the 1992 artificial fluoridation [figures] are huge. In short, it clearly shows that as artificial water fluoridation increases, so does the incidence of ADHD." Science is replete with warnings such as these; it's high time we stop ignoring them!

Reduce Sugar Consumption to Spare Your Teeth

Water fluoridation really needs to stop. It was never the real answer to tooth decay, and it never will be. Cavities are no more caused by a lack of fluoride than depression is caused by a lack of Prozac... If you want to improve your dental health, look to your diet, and address the diet of your children from day one. Some of the true primary causes of tooth decay cited in the literature include:

  • Consistent use of refined sugar and processed fructose found in sugary drinks and processed foods in general
  • Children going to bed with a bottle of sweetened drink in their mouth, or sucking at will from such a bottle during the day
  • Poor dental hygiene and poor access to and utilization of dental health services, usually related to socioeconomic status
  • Mineral deficiencies, like magnesium, which can weaken bones and teeth
  • More than 600 medications promote tooth decay by inhibiting saliva
By far, excess dietary sugar is the most significant factor in driving dental decay. WHO and most dental experts agree on this fact. The massive consumption of sugar in the Western diet, particularly fructose in high fructose corn syrup, fuels the fire of tooth decay. Again, one of the reasons why the dangers of both sugar and fluoride aren't common public knowledge is because the sugar industry was allowed to dictate dental health policy and research agendas. As noted by Cristin Kearns who co-authored the featured study: "It's extremely shocking to see how closely NIDR [and the sugar industry] worked together, and how the research priorities between the two groups were so aligned to benefit the sugar industry."
Well, it's time to get over the shock and do something to correct the situation. Part of this course correction is putting an end to water fluoridation, which is doing far more harm than good. The sugar, beverage, and junk food industries have had their way for decades. We now know what kind of world their "science" brings to bear—a world of out of control obesity and skyrocketing disease rates. It's time for a U-turn, and it begins with you.

You do not have to wait for anyone to give you the green-light to change what you eat and drink. Again, if you're insulin resistant, overweight, or suffer from chronic disease, it would behoove you to limit your total fructose consumption to 15 grams per day or less. For all others, aim for 25 grams of fructose from all sources or less, to maintain good health. For more details on optimizing your dental hygiene without fluoride, please see the Related Articles listing.