Sugar Industry Role in US Dental Policy Reported

Sugar Industry Role in US Dental Policy Reported
Laird Harrison
March 12, 2015
The sugar industry steered the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) dental program away from efforts to limit sugar consumption in the 1960s and 1970s, researchers say.
"These tactics are strikingly similar to what we saw in the tobacco industry in the same era," coauthor Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a university press release.
Lead author Cristin E. Kearns, DDS, MBA, also from the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues write that they based their finding on a trove of 319 documents they found at the University of Illinois. Dr Kearns and colleagues published their report online March 10 in PLoS Medicine.
The documents show that sugar and candy trade groups influenced the US government to focus on reducing the harm caused by sugar rather than warning the public to abstain from sugar, the researchers write.
Dr Kearns said she discovered the papers in a collection left to the University of Illinois library by the late Roger Adams, PhD, a professor emeritus of organic chemistry.
Dr Adams served on the Sugar Research Foundation, which later became the Sugar Association, and the scientific advisory board of the International Sugar Research Foundation, which became the World Sugar Research Organization, the report says.
"Scare Tactics"
In response to the new report, the Sugar Association released a statement arguing that the report's concerns about sugar are exaggerated.
"It is clear that the authors use of attention-grabbing headlines and scare tactics that liken consumption of all-natural sugar, or sucrose, which is naturally found in vegetables, fruits and fruit juices, to a known carcinogen is a 'textbook' play from the activist agenda," the statement says in part. "Sugar has been safely used by our mothers and grandmothers for hundreds of years."
According to the researchers, the NIH worked together with the trade organizations, eventually incorporating 78% of a paper crafted by the trade associations directly into a key policy document.
The report comes as municipalities and school districts are debating restrictions on sugary beverages. The sugar industry continues to "focus on sugar harm reduction as opposed to sugar restrictions," the authors write.
According to the report, the sugar industry groups helped fund federal research on enzymes to break up dental plaque and a vaccine against tooth decay, neither of which proved viable.
Although they acknowledging there was "good evidence" that stopping the consumption of sucrose would eliminate caries, the NIH researchers concluded this was not practical, the report says.
Dr Kearns and colleagues write that the NIH missed an opportunity to more thoroughly research the relative role that different carbohydrates play in caries.
"The dental community has always known that preventing tooth decay required restricting sugar intake," Dr Kearns said in the news release. "It was disappointing to learn that the policies we are debating today could have been addressed more than forty years ago."
Although tooth decay is largely preventable, it remains the leading chronic disease among US children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that more than half of American teenagers have had cavities in their adult teeth, and 15.3% of teenagers have untreated tooth decay, which can lead to tooth loss, infections, and abscesses.
"Our findings are a wake-up call for government officials charged with protecting the public health, as well as public health advocates, to understand that the sugar industry, like the tobacco industry, seeks to protect profits over public health," Dr Glantz said.
A spokesman for the American Dental Association said the organization would have no comment.
Source: Medscape
Date: 13/03/15

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