I grew up in the 1960s, inundated by commercials for margarines made from hydrogenated vegetable oils that “promised” those margarines would keep my cholesterol levels low and protect me from heart disease.
Yet in 2015, nearly 50 years later, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of the harm they do, especially to the circulatory system and the heart, the Food and Drug Administration announced that artificial trans fats of the very sort that made up a good percentage of those margarines were no longer “generally recognized as safe,” and food manufacturers would have three years to remove these substances from their products altogether.
How did this happen? How could we get the science so wrong that it was actually backward, and how did it take us 50 years to figure it out?
On September 12, 2016, The New York Times published a very illuminating article by Anahad O’Connor entitled “How the Sugar Industry Shifted the Blame to Fat.” According to O’Connor,
The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.
The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.
“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper. [emphases mine]
As you may imagine from my past writings, I am not the least bit surprised that the sugar industry cynically and deliberately attempted to shape the science of nutrition and heart disease, nor even that their attempt to “derail the discussion about sugar” was so wildly successful for so long.
What I do find shocking, however, is just how little money and how few people it took to completely divert the mainstream scientific understanding on the subject for more than 50 years, to the point where many conscientious cardiologists, as well as the American Heart Association, are still advocating low-fat/low-saturated-fat diets, while only recently acknowledging that sugar even plays a role. According to the article,
The 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. [emphasis mine]
A mere $50,000 in today’s dollars – not even a year’s salary for one scientist? That’s all it took to get three Harvard scientists to completely eschew scientific integrity and deliberately promulgate incorrect ideas that not only “derailed the discussion” on nutrition and heart disease, but were also directly responsible for destroying the health of generations of Americans? Way to go, Sugar Association! High five! Even Big Tobacco can’t compete with that kind of bang for the buck.
One of the major objections people have when I tell them that our current vaccine schedule is ruining the health of our children (just as supposedly “heart-healthy” foods ruined the health of adults) is that it can’t be true because, if it were true, it would require a conspiracy on an international scale of such size and complexity that it would defy credulity.
I always agree a conspiracy such as they describe, where very many people (including your garden-variety pediatrician) all know the truth and collude to delude the public, would defy credulity. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Three people may keep a secret if two of them are dead.” But is that sort of conspiracy truly necessary to create the outcome we’re seeing where up is down, and unhealthy is healthy?
I’ve never thought so. In fact, I’ve been saying for a long time that it doesn’t require some huge, complex conspiracy, involving everyone at a couple of government agencies, six major manufacturers, pediatricians’ offices all over the world, mainstream media reporters, and research labs at major universities, to achieve an entrenched backward understanding of the health implications of a one-size-fits-all, shoot-‘em-up vaccine schedule. And this New York Times article is the proof. All that’s required are the following four elements:
1) Some individuals (not very many as it turns out) who put profit before people: As we can see in the Sugar Association documents, our sugar execs and Harvard researchers fit the bill perfectly. These people consciously and deliberately set out to misinform the scientific community, the medical community, and the general public because it was in their monetary interest to do so. And, regrettably, such people abound in a society (like ours) which regards profit as its highest good.
How hard is it to imagine that vaccine manufacturers could and would (in a heartbeat) do the exact same thing for a business sector that currently brings in about $40 billion a year and is expected to be a major source of growth? For a prize that big wouldn’t they be willing to throw around millions if it got them what they wanted? What if I told you that back in 1986, pharmaceutical companies were threatening to get out of the vaccine business altogether? They were getting walloped by the press and in courtrooms all over the country because so many children’s lives were destroyed by DPT vaccines, and they told the U.S. government they were done unless they were absolved them of all monetary responsibility for harm caused by their products.
What if I told you that Congress obliged and did remove financial liability with the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, and – shockingly – the defunct vaccine industry was suddenly a gold mine.
In 1986, the average American kid got DPT, MMR, and polio vaccines, and vaccine manufacturers were supposedly going broke from damages. Today’s average kid gets hepatitis B, rotavirus, DTaP, Hib, pneumococcal, polio, influenza, MMR, varicella, hepatitis A, HPV, and meningococcal vaccines, with many more anticipated, and the vaccine manufacturers are pulling money in hand over fist, not paying a cent in damages, despite the fact that so many more children are getting hurt.
2) True Believers who ignore the evidence in front of their faces. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how many people actually read, much less critically, the review study these Harvard guys wrote and/or the studies it was based on? I’d be willing to bet it was precious few. But many, many heard the headlines and believed the study’s conclusions could be taken at face value, even though they saw patients every day who defied its predictions. From the perspective of the True Believer, these patients were either “lying,” “deluded,” or “outliers” because “everybody knows” diets high in fat and saturated fat would clog your arteries and stop your heart.
From reading way too many so-called science blogs in the last decade that do exactly the same thing these Harvard researchers did – promote conclusions that are not supported by the scientific research and directly contradict the clinical data at hand – and noting that these conclusions go completely unquestioned by the vast majority of readers (who, ironically, tend to call themselves “skeptics”), who then turn around and ridicule anyone who actually does question the conclusions, I can attest that these people are everywhere. And while being duped themselves, they are often utterly, if amusingly, convinced of their own intellectual superiority.
As a matter of fact, this phenomenon is so widely known and understood that it is enshrined in a fairy tale. In The Emperor’s New Clothes, a couple of con men convince an emperor to hire them to make him a fabulous new wardrobe. He does so only to be provided with . . . nothing.
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