September 15, 2016
Last Updated:
March 4, 2021

How the Sugar Industry May Have Influenced the Sugar vs. Fat Debate

A new report from the Journal of the American Medical Association that’s shaking up the health and wellness world suggests that the sugar industry may have downplayed the link between sugar and heart disease and promoted saturated fats as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.

Why is this causing such a commotion over 50 years later?

Well, this research conducted in 1965 may have influenced policymaking and official dietary guidelines of the past five decades and is believed to have contributed to the modern obesity crisis.  

How so? According to The New York Times, this research led to the making of an overarching scientific debate for decades that is still ongoing today – the sugar vs. fat debate. With fat perceived to be the health culprit among doctors, policy makers, and the mass population alike, people began to purchase food products that were labeled with "reduced fat" health claims, which are often loaded with sugar to make up for the lack of fat. Both the incidence of obesity and heart disease increased along with the sugar industry's profitability.

Though the latest Dietary Guidelines include a limit on sugar, and less stringency around avoiding saturated fats, some argue that the damage has been done on the premise of false research.

So what does this mean for you?

Similar to the fake food controversy, it’s important to be informed but not alarmed when new information is revealed. Even modern research in nutrition science can be misleading and it’s important to educate yourself when making decisions that inform your own health and wellness. 

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At Integrative Nutrition, ahead of nutrition research and guidelines, we first and foremost encourage people to listen to their bodies and be their own health advocate, while making decisions that feel best for their personal needs. Some helpful concepts to consider include moderation and mindfulness.

Moderation means having balance! If you enjoy eating a cookie once in a while, do it. If you’re an omnivore who gets energy from meat, then cook it with love and let it nourish you. As long as your overall diet includes a variety of wholesome, unprocessed foods and you’re not overdoing it on any particular food group, then you’re able to indulge once in a while. Follow the 90/10 rule, a helpful reminder that if you eat wholesome foods and take good care of yourself 90% of the time, then your body can handle a cookie or a glass of wine from time to time! 

Mindfulness is being aware of what you’re consuming on a deeper personal and environmental level. This means consuming more whole foods than packaged goods and cooking as much as you can, while knowing the source of the food you eat. Tune in to how your body responds on a bio-individual level and address health issues before they escalate.

Health trends and “official” recommendations are often helpful to guide you along your health journey, but they are ever-changing so it's important to do your own research and decide what feels best for you. If you generally stick to real food with good variety and balance, and incorporate exercise, meaningful relationships, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice into your life, then your overall health will thrive.

How do you stay informed about health and wellness news? Share in the comments below. 

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