A recent review of more than 300 sugar industry papers dating from the 1960s and 1970s shows that the industry influenced the governmental research on tooth decay prevention to its own benefit. Scientists said that similar strategies were also employed by the tobacco companies to hide the harm their products may do to people’s health.
According to the review, sugar industry knew that sugar was the main culprit for tooth decay in children since 1950, but pushed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to focus on other solutions to tooth decay rather than cutting down sugar intake.
The review was published March 10 in the online journal PLOS Medicine.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the NIH conducted several studies on tooth decay prevention searching for viable solutions to an issue that became a national epidemic. But the sugar industry heavily funded the research of several solutions, such as enzymes designed to break the dental plaque or even vaccines that were supposed to prevent tooth decay.
Such solutions, the review states, played the role of deflecting the public attention from the simpler solution of lowering sugar consumption.
In 2010, a researcher from the University of California-San Francisco found more than 1,500 pages of industry documents at the University of Illinois. Among the papers, there were letters sent by sugar industry executives to their peers, meeting notes and industry reports dating back to the 1960s and the 1970s.
The review found that the NIH’s National Institute of Dental Research conducted a tooth decay prevention research in 1971. However, nearly 80 percent of the sugar industry recommendations were included in the research’s final conclusions, reviewers say. Additionally, data that would have harmed sugar industry were omitted, the papers show.
Cristin Kearns, one of the researchers involved in the review, said that although dentists had always known that tooth decays were linked to sugar consumption, the industry kept that hidden from the public for more than 40 years.
Ronald Burakoff from the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, NY, who was not involved in the study, said that sugar industry acted just like the tobacco industry when it tried to hide the harmful effects of smoking for decades.
For instance, in the 1970s, tobacco product makers got involved in the National Cancer Institute research on designing safer cigarettes. As a result the institute dropped the idea.
A spokesperson for the Sugar Association, which caters for the sugar industry, recently said the researchers involved in the review were employing “scare tactics” by comparing sugar and tobacco industries. The association also said that there was no need to “dredge up history.”
Image Source: Miriyala Pediatric Dentistry
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