More bad news for the soda industry

In Featured Posts, Obesity by Prof7 Comments

One third of Americans are now obese and another third are overweight.  Diabetes rates are not far behind.  Childhood obesity and diabetes, almost unheard of 50 years ago, have reached alarming levels.

There is a lot of blame to go around – from fast food restaurants to school lunch and other government programs that encourage unhealthy diets.  Of course, the packaged foods industry has also received a lot of the blame.

Soda pop producers have been especially singled out by many nutritionists and public health professionals for their role in promoting obesogenic diets.  I will be discussing this more on Wednesday, but most of you already know how pervasive pop consumption is in the U.S. and how many calories we consume as  sports drinks, soda pop, and other sugary beverages.  Even with consumers cutting back on their pop consumption, each one of us still drinks, on average, more than 35 gallons per year.

Last year, a major controversy on this very topic occurred after the prestigious journal JAMA Internal Medicine published an study critical of the sugar industry.  Specifically, that revealed how the sugar industry promoted research in the 1960s and 1970s that advanced the argument that fat and cholesterol were the real dangers in our food and to our health.  Sugar consumption was down-played.  This sales pitch was evidently very successful, and this position (fat bad) became dogma for the next 40 years (see also this New York Times article).

Indeed, the researchers that led these early studies were themselves well-known and from prestigious institutions (from Harvard, no less).  That they were paid by the industry without disclosing this information was, according to New York University nutritionist, Marion Nestle, an “appalling” conflict of interest.  In her JAMA commentary, she notes that the sugar/pop industry continues to have a “cozy relationship” with obesity scientists and that such relationships bias the research in this important public heath field.

This issue is not going away, and the soda pop tax issue remains front and center.



  1. This skewed relationship between sugar and soda companies and researchers is dangerous. We need reliable and accurate information about the dangers that these pose to us so that we can live healthier lives. The lack of integrity on the part of both parties needs to change.

  2. The companies weren’t wrong to say that fat and cholesterol were bad and that people needed to watch out for them. But they weren’t right to do it to cover up the fact that sugars are equally as bad. Also, everyone is responsible for what they put into their bodies. They should be equally as concerned for their health as the obesity research scientists are.

  3. I agree with the statement that fat and cholesterol are bad for health, but as technology advances, foods change and research changes. With new research, people should be willing to hear what’s good and bad. Unfortunately with the advancement in technology, there are cheaper, less healthier alternatives that get added to foods to make them better (shelf life and cost wise). It’s unfortunate to have this obesity issue in the states, food companies should work together to make America healthy again.

  4. I listened to a podcast recently called FoodStuff, I highly recommend listening to it! The FoodStuff commentators talks about the history of foods and spent two episodes discussing the history of sugar. They did a lot of research into the sugar industry promoting research regarding fat and cholesterol, I had never heard about that until I listened to the podcast, so I found that very interesting.

  5. I think a lot of the problem with things like soda goes back to people being unaware of the effects and not knowing the facts of what its truly doing to them. I know of a lot of people that switched to drinking diet pop thinking its so much better for them and that it wont affect them in a negative way. Diet pop may be better for you but it still isnt something people should be drinking in such high amounts. People dont realize this and there needs to be more of these facts brought into the light if we want to make a change for the better.

  6. I think this is a super smart move on the sugar industries part. Big corporations will do whatever it takes to make money. Its a common concept, to advertise a product a certain company will pay for that to be done and talked about in a positive way. Its an easy way to promote it and make it seem cooler because its being talked about by a certain person or on a certain channel. In the same way, the sugar industry is paying to make their product seem better, or simply not as bad as the other components like fat.

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