Jonathan Gornall, a writer for The BMJ, is pointing a finger at Big Sugar for its sticky influence over scientific studies and public policy in the UK. Gornall’s suite of studies examining the connections between private companies, scientists, universities and policy makers in the U.K. is fairly alarming. He focused on two federal policy steering committees: the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and the Medical Research Council’s Human Nutrition Research (HNR) unit at Cambridge.
Two of the most shocking discoveries include the $380,000 on average provided to these supposedly unbiased scientists, and the sheer number of companies that are involved (for instance Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestlé, Weight Watchers International, W K Kellogg Institute, and GlaxoSmithKline. Of particular interest is this interactive map showing the various connections between private, Big Food funders and individuals and groups involved with the SACN and HNR.
Marion Nestle provides a platform through her blog post where you can access all of these papers as well as read some of the resulting rebuttals from UK-based nutrition scientists and food industry backers.
Nestle points out that we are all too subjected to this type of corporate influence here in the U.S. In an introduction to Gornall’s research, Elizabeth Loder points out the slippery slope of privately funded research and the trustworthiness of the resulting science:
Such strategies mirror those of the drug industry, and the arguments used to defend these associations are strikingly similar. Engagement with the private sector is desirable because it enables “more rapid transfer of the best ideas into new interventions,” and scientists are using the money for “important pieces of research.” These things may well be true. The existence of such financial connections is not evidence of “research malpractice.” It does, however, contribute to perceptions that nutrition science might be for sale."
The sugar industry concerns us here at Wellness Warrior the most. We often report on how their business puts profits over health—oftentimes the health of children too young to make an informed decision. California’s Senate Majority Leader Bill Monning has recently sponsored a bill to put warning labels on sugary drinks. It will be a small but important step in reigning in the inequitable amount of power this industry has over our public policies and the health of our nations.
Sugar is everywhere … and it can be surprisingly hard to avoid, even when you think you recognize a handful of its many names. Check out our homage to its ubiquity: this Wellness Warrior Sugar Card that helps decode what some of those tricky sweeteners out there are called:
• Agave nectar • Barley malt • Beet sugar • Brown rice syrup • Brown sugar • Cane sugar • Carbitol • Carob syrup • Caramel coloring • Coconut palm sugar • Concentrated fruit juice • Corn sugar • Corn syrup • Date sugar • Dextrin • Dextrose • Diglycerides • Disaccharides • Florida crystals • Fruit juice concentrate • Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) • Glucitol • Glucoamine • Glucose • Glycerides • Glycerol • Grape sugar • Hexitol • High-fructose corn syrup • Inversol • Invert sugar • Karo syrups • Lactose • Maltodextrin • Malted barley • Maltose • Mannitol • Molasses • Monoglycerides • Pentose • Polydextrose • Ribose rice syrup • Rice malt • Saccharides • Sorbitol • Sorghum • Sucanet • Sucrose • Turbinado sugar • Xylitol • Zylose
Sugar politics: The BMJ’s series “Spinning a web of influence” via Food Politics