Back in 1971, the National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR) founded the National Caries Program in an attempt to increase government regulation of the sugar industry and decrease the prevalence of dental decay caused by excessive sugar consumption. But a new PLOS Medicine report recently revealed that “Big Sugar” companies actually skewed federal research in order to keep sugary foods an important part of the American diet.
TIME states that a team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) began uncovering the controversial data as they examined “sugar-industry documents” dating from 1959 to 1971 that influenced the creation of the National Caries Program. The research team was shocked to discover that, despite decades of scientific studies, the NIDR neglected to ensure that the National Caries Program promoted a low-sugar diet as an essential part of reducing cavities.
And that’s just the beginning of how the sugar industry influenced a nationwide healthcare program.
When the NIDR first created a task force for the Caries Program in 1969, another group called the International Sugar Research Foundation (ISRF) happened to appear on the scene. Researchers at UCSF found that over 40% of the content that influenced the creation of the Caries Program was taken directly from research provided by the ISRF.
Although the Caries Program didn’t advise Americans to eat more sugar, the fact that leading health experts would use so much research from the sugar industry has turned this discovery into a scandal. As Business Insider explains, “The International Sugar Research Foundation worked to deflect focus away from research that would conclusively show the link between sucrose [sugar] and cavities and direct the public to reduce their sugar intake.”
Now, decades after the sugar industry intervened in the program, dental experts are stating that the findings are incredibly frustrating; if the NIDR hadn’t been swayed so much by the sugar industry, it’s possible that dental decay wouldn’t have become the public health epidemic that it is today. As it is, millions of Americans still suffer from untreated dental problems and specialized dental clinics have become an essential part of the industry, providing extensive dental work for patients with severe conditions.
“It is sad to see that the obstruction of scientifically based studies regarding our health can be swayed by the relationships developed for financial or control issues between big-sugar companies and the government,” says Dr Christine Koval, Koval & Koval Dental Associates. “Sugar is our number one insult to teeth. With this said, I feel that the government is ultimately responsible for much of tooth loss and decay over the past few decades. We currently have a situation where processed food companies are trying to pass a bill to allow the elimination of the wording of “high fructose corn syrup ” to stating the word “fructose ” alone. This is deceiving to many people and their sugar intake, since most people know that high fructose corn syrup is bad for their health. Education of patients in my dental office is a primary focus with dietary and particularly hidden sugars.”
Although knowledge of the tainted 1970s anti-cavity campaign may not have a huge impact on the prevalence of dental decay at this point, one conclusion is very clear: when it comes to dental health, the best option is always to seek advice from an industry professional whom you know and trust.