How the Sugar Industry Fooled Us About Good Fats

You know when you watch an old movie that shows actors nonchalantly smoking cigarettes, and you get the urge to yell at the screen: “Put down the cancer sticks! Those things will kill you,” before wondering how we were ever so naïve?

Well, it’s time to take a second look at something else we all thought was relatively harmless: Sugar.

“Big Sugar”

According to the now well-known The New York Times article, How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat, there were scientists working to further the sugar industry’s agenda by publishing biased research in credible scientific journals.

In 1967, the Sugar Research Foundation (now the Sugar Association) paid three Harvard scientists to publish a paper in The New England Journal of Medicine about sugar, fat and heart disease. The gist was that fat is the culprit for heart disease, while sugar has minimal effects on heart health.

Now think of everything we grew up learning about nutrition. We were taught to avoid fatty foods, and opt for low-fat versions of everything from crackers to cookies to salad dressings. These “lite” products were still delicious (or so we told ourselves) because they were loaded with extra sugar – which we all thought was okay! Turns out much of this is a “Big FAT Lie” – click to read more in a great piece written by Dietitian Cassie on this.

The reason this flawed research seeped into mainstream culture like spilled soda into carpet was because one of the sugar-funded researchers went on serve as head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture. His research largely shaped the government’s dietary guidelines.

If you think this was just a minor lapse in good judgement from the 60s, (in addition to bellbottoms, that is), think again. In June of this year, the Associated Press published an article by researchers who were paid millions by Coca-Cola to play down the relationship between sugar and obesity. In fact, the study claimed that kids who eat candy are thinner than kids who don’t.

So where does that leave us? Who can we trust when it comes to nutrition information? What do we really know?

Reverse the Faulty Research: Healthy Fats and Low-Sugar for Health

Well, we now know that high intakes of sugar – especially in the absence of other nutrients like fiber, protein and healthy fats (think candy and soda) – show a link to cardiovascular disease. We also know that “fat” is not the simple villain the sugar industry would have us believe. Remember, there are good fats and bad fats. Knowing the difference can be lifesaving.

We’re all familiar with bad fats. While ‘Big Sugar’ may have played down the health risks of their own product, they were right about the link between cardiovascular disease and saturated and trans fats. These fats (think commercially-produced baked goods, fried food and McDonalds hamburgers) are linked to high cholesterol and heart disease.

Good monounsaturated fats, on the other hand, have the opposite effect on our health. Commonly found in nuts, seeds, avocado and olives, these fats help with proper cell and brain function. They lower our risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia and even fight inflammation.

The professional nutritionists at Zing know all about the sugar vs fat debate, and have known for years. In fact, it’s partially what lead to the creation of Zing Bars – the need for a healthy snack bar, loaded with only the good stuff. Zing Bars contain monounsaturated fats from nut and seed butters – not cheap fillers like sugars or artificial flavors, which have adverse effects on health and weight.   

Next time you’re watching your favorite old movie and looking for a snack, perhaps skip the candy, and any of those “low fat” products loaded with sugars and fillers.

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