Studies Linking Sugar to Health Problems Suppressed by the Sugar Industry

  • New evidence shows the sugar industry suppressed scientific research that linked sugar to heart disease and bladder cancer in rats.
  • The Sugar Research Foundation, the group funding the studies, cut the project short and did not publish the results.
  • Nutritionists warn that sugar, not fat, is largely responsible for many of the problems in our modern diets.


For decades, sugar lobbyists have targeted studies linking sugar and cancer.

When a study last year found that mice on a high-sugar diet were more likely to develop breast cancer, the Sugar Association, one of the largest sugar lobby groups in the United States , called it “sensationalized”. The group insists that “no credible link between ingested sugars and cancer has been established.

But doctors and researchers say the sugar industry may have intentionally prevented research on the link from being published. A new study in the newspaper PLOS Biologythere reveals how the Sugar Association worked to suppress scientific findings about the harmful effects of table sugar on rodents nearly 50 years ago.

The report details the results of two unpublished studies, known as Project 259, which were funded by the sugar lobby in the late 1960s. Both involved research into the effects of feeding sugar to rats.

In the first study, one group of rats received a balanced diet consisting of grains, beans, fish, and yeast, while the other rats received a diet high in sugar. Researchers found that sugar eaters were at higher risk for strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease, and had higher than normal levels of fat (triglycerides) in their blood.

the The second study compared sugar-fed rats with starch-fed rats and found that sugar-eating rodents were more likely to have elevated levels of an enzyme associated with bladder cancer in humans. .

However, none of this rodent research has emerged. The Sugar Research Foundation halted Project 259 and did not release any of the results.

“Our study contributes to a larger body of literature documenting industry’s manipulation of science,” the researchers, from the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in their report.

In a statement, the Sugar Association denied the allegation, saying the new study is just “a set of speculations and hypotheses about events that occurred nearly five decades ago, conducted by a group of researchers and funded by individuals and organizations who are known critics of the sugar industry.”

“We reviewed our research records and found documentation indicating that the study in question was terminated for three reasons, none of which involved potential research outcomes: the study was significantly delayed; it was therefore over budget; and the delay coincided with an organizational restructuring,” the group said.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve learned that “big sugar” is getting in the way of science. LLast year, some of the same researchers discovered that the Sugar Research Foundation – the former name of the Sugar Association – had paid three Harvard scientists in 1967 to make sugar less unhealthy and to suggest that fat was the problem in our diets instead.

“The type of research manipulation is similar to what the tobacco industry does,” study co-author Stanton Glantz said in a statement.

Decades of sugar research since Project 259 have linked sugar consumption to an overabundance of serious health problems, including high cholesterol, heart disease, and kidney disease, to name a few. Recent research also suggests that sugar may play a role in tumor growth, but scientists don’t believe it speeds up cancer growth and still don’t know if sugar consumption has a link to cancer formation.

After years of filling up on high-sugar, low-fat foods, consumers are finally becoming aware of the sugar-related issues that have been hidden for so many years. And TThe United States Food and Drug Administration is too – in 2021all nutrition labels will for the first time be required to include the % Daily Value of added sugars, while the “calories from fat” column will be deleted.

Rachel J. Bradford