A prominent medical journal , last week, published a scathing attack on global health advice to eat less sugar. Warnings to cut sugar, the study argued, are based on weak evidence and can’t be trusted.

The review was paid for by the International Life Sciences Institute, a scientific group based in Washington DC, that is funded by multinational food and agrochemical companies including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Kraft Foods and Monsanto. One of the authors is a member of the scientific advisory board of Tate & Lyle, one of the world’s largest suppliers of high-fructose corn syrup.

Some experts said the Annals review appeared to be an attempt by the industry to undermine sugar guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and other health groups that urge children and adults to consume fewer products with added sugar such as soft drinks, candy and sweetened cereals. The paper, they say, is reminiscent of tactics once used by the tobacco industry, which, for decades, enlisted scientists to become “merchants of doubt” about the health hazards of smoking.

But the scientists behind the paper said more scrutiny of sugar guidelines was needed. The researchers reviewed guidelines issued by the WHO and eight other agencies around the world and said the case against sugar was based on “low-quality” evidence.

“The conclusion of our paper is a very simple one,” says Bradley C. Johnston, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Toronto and McMaster University and the lead author of the new paper. “We hope that the results from this review can be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.”

Dr. Johnston says he recognized that his paper would be criticized because of its ties to industry funding. He also emphasized that he was not suggesting that people eat more sugar. The review article, he said, questions specific recommendations about sugar, but “should not be used to justify higher intake of sugary foods and beverages. Most guidelines that urge people to limit sugar say nothing about reducing refined starches, even though studies suggest that both are equally harmful. It’s unfair to single out sugar and not starch Recommendations to limit both sugar and starch are necessary.

Courtesy THE HINDU dt 25th DEC

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