A recent study reveals, the sugar industry was one the largest forces behind shaping the National Institute of Health’s efforts to reduce dental cavities in the 1960s and 1970s.
This information comes from internal industry documents that reveal how the industry knew that sugar caused tooth decay as early as 1950, reports USA Today. However, the government pushed researchers to focus on prevention strategies other than reducing sugar consumption. As such, the industry funded research on enzymes to break up dental plaque and vaccines against tooth decay as a way to deflect attention from the simpler strategy of telling Americans to cut back on sugary drinks and snacks.
The researchers behind the study looked at 319 industry documents, housed at the University of Illinois. The documents were first discovered in 2010 by a researcher at the University of California-San Francisco, and hold more than 1,500 pages that include correspondence among sugar industry executives, meeting minutes and reports from 1959 to 1961. While proposals that could hurt the sugar industry were left out, in 1971, the National Institute of Dental Research, part of the NIH, created a research plan for cavity prevention. Almost 80% of the sugar industry’s recommendations ended up in the plan.
This is a very striking find, as tooth decay is the leading chronic disease among American children. In fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than half of kids and teens have cavities in their adult teeth, and 16% of children ages 6 to 9 have untreated tooth decay. The information in the report may have been skewed to help sugar companies, and there are even parallels to the way tobacco companies involvement in the National Cancer Institute’s efforts to make a safer cigarette. Currently, the World Health Organization recently called for people to reduce consumption of added sugars to less than 10% of daily calories.