Recent Obesity-Related Kerfuffles


Bless the Daily Mail for its customary bullet-point style, which can clarify even a half-century-old scandal. Back in the 1960s, researchers were not required to divulge any conflicts of interest that might make their findings more interesting if the public knew about those conflicts.

Last September, JAMA Internal Medicine issued a special report illuminating the unwisdom of that old policy. Here is the bottom line, as phrased by Mia DeGraaf:

The sugar industry paid prestigious Harvard scientists to publish research saying fat — not sugar — was a key cause of heart disease… It meant sugar chiefs could work closely with researchers to re-draft and re-draft their paper until it was “satisfactory” — without having to report their involvement… The result shaped public health approaches to nutrition for years.

Years? More like decades. Nobody figured out until 1984 that the crooked 1967 research was funded by the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), aka the Sugar Association. And it just recently came to light that a certain doctor was “commissioned by the SRF to reach a specific conclusion.”

Consequently, dietary fat got a bum rap, and millions of people missed out on the potential health benefits of good cholesterol, and were conned into substituting products filled with deadly trans fats. And sugar, of course. To make up for the missing flavor that had been supplied by reasonable and necessary dietary fat, everyone began to consume mountains of deadly crystal, powder, and fluid.

When asked about this recently, the Sugar Association said that “when the studies in question were published funding disclosures and transparency standards were not the norm they are today.” In other words, the were able to get away with it and so they did.

Wait, there’s more

That was not the only food-related scandal that came out in 2016. For, Chris Fuhrmeister reported on several others. Just when people were warming up to the idea that a healthy diet can include olive oil, news of adulterated and misleadingly-labeled olive oil burst into the headlines, and the governments of both Italy and the U.S. began to take a closer look.

A company that makes meal replacement bars and drink powder audaciously named its products Soylent. (This branding was an homage to the 1973 horror movie Soylent Green in which a corporation sold food made from human bodies.) At any rate, last fall several people got sick from Soylent bars, specifically from some kind of algae that was part of the recipe.

Various fast-food franchises apparently got into legal tiffs over who invented which kind of fancy burger or whatever. A product called Just Mayo got in trouble for shady marketing practices. Many restaurants’ farm-to-table freshness claims were exposed as lies. McDonald’s staged a publicity stunt by paying a real chef to use their ingredients to deceive journalists who write about food. Then there was a mail-order wine Ponzi scheme that needn’t concern us here.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Revealed: How the sugar industry paid prestigious Harvard researchers to say fat (NOT sugar) caused heart disease,”, 09/12/16
Source: “The Wildest Food Scandals of 2016,”, 12/30/16
Image by Bryan Ledgard on Flickr

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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