Sugar Association Sweet-Talks Diabetes Conference Attendees

“Sugar has a bad reputation.”

According to the Sugar Association, that was apparently the sentiment expressed by the majority of attendees who stopped by the trade group’s booth earlier this summer at the annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE).

If I was attending the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Education, the last exhibitor I would expect to see would be the Tobacco Merchants Association! If I came across such a presence, I would be a bit stunned by the audacity to promote tobacco use among cancer educators under, perhaps, the guise of harm reduction. My reaction would probably be to nod and smile politely, while slowly stepping back, “Yes, indeed!” Admittedly, tobacco has a bad press.

Sadly, the Sugar Association praising itself for taunting diabetics with desserts is just the latest example of sugar interests misrepresenting or dismissing science about the negative health effects of sugar in an attempt to sway opinion. public and influencing policy – and disappointing at best. At worst, handing out so-called fact sheets to conference attendees that claim “the scientific evidence is clear, dietary sugars per se have no direct negative impact on health,” citing triaged reports on the pane 25 years ago, is appallingly misleading.

But then, it’s not surprising to find sugar interests peddling misinformation. They are experts with decades of experience.

Sugar Information Inc. was the precursor to the Sugar Association. This advertisement appeared in 1960. Although it contains factual information (for example, humans have an innate attraction to sweet tastes), it also contains misinformation (for example, no other food satisfies your appetite so quickly ). The statement, “published in the interest of better nutrition”, misleads consumers about the body’s motivation and suggests that added sugar is good for our health.

Scientific Evidence Supports a Causal Relationship Between Sugar and Chronic Metabolic Disease

As documented in our recent report Sugar Added, Science Subtracted: How Industry Obscures Science and Undermines Public Health Policy on Sugar, evidence continues to mount implicating excessive consumption of sugar, whether from sugar cane, sugar beets or corn, in many health problems. Sugar, in the amounts Americans consume, has been linked not only to type 2 diabetes, but also to cardiovascular disease, high triglyceride levels and hypertension. The association of sugar with these chronic metabolic diseases is separate from the effect of sugar on total calorie intake and exclusive of its effect on obesity.

Based on the latest and best available scientific information, scientific and governmental bodies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), American Heart Association (AHA), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have recommended sugar consumption standards well below typical American consumption levels.

Despite the adverse health effects of sugar and recommendations from public health experts to reduce consumption, most Americans consume far more added sugar than they should. Why is this so?

A playbook full of tobacco-style tactics

As the Sugar Association’s appearance at last month’s diabetes conferences illustrates, sugar interests continue to cloud the science on the health effects of added sugar. As we discuss both in our report quoted above and in its counterpart Sugar Coating Science: How the Food Industry Fools Consumers About Sugar, sugar interests have, in fact, intentionally and actively worked for over 40 years to suppress scientific evidence linking sugar consumption to negative health consequences.

Sugar interests have attempted to discredit or minimize scientific evidence and intentionally spread misinformation. They hired their own scientists and paid apparently independent scientists to speak on behalf of the industry and its products. They launched sophisticated public relations campaigns to influence public opinion.

And, yes, they have worked to influence the academic community, including at scientific meetings and through scientific literature.

To implement the tactics cited above, sugar interests spend billions of dollars a year to persuade Americans to eat and drink more sugary foods and beverages through marketing and other measures. Their actions interfere with how the public responds to scientific information about added sugar, skew our understanding of our food choices, and contribute to our continued high consumption of foods containing added sugar.

Yes, indeed, sugar has a bad reputation and rightly so, not only because excessive consumption is bad for us, but also because of the efforts of sugar interests to mislead us about this simple fact.

A cynic might say that the Sugar Association’s appearance at a diabetes conference is little more than another clever marketing ploy to “bury the data” by soft-spoken health educators and practitioners with deliberate deception.


As documented in our reports, sugar interests have used these tactics for years to mislead the public.

Rachel J. Bradford