Study finds sugar-trade industry shaped dental guidelines

By - Bad Breath Expert

SUMMARY: Federal recommendations for cavity prevention in the1970s were influenced by sugar companies.

Posted: March 11, 2015

According to a report published March10, 2015, in the journal PLOS Medicine, the sugar industry played a prominent role in the direction of federal research on cavity prevention. The study is the work of public health dentist Cristin Kearns and researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, who sought to parse the relationship between purveyors of the sweet stuff and the National Institute of Dental Research.

Evidence of sugar trade industry's interference with federal research
Searching the sugar trade industry for clues, Kearns found 319 internal documents illuminating the industry's knowledge of the role of sugar consumption in tooth decay, reported The Smithsonian. The documents were dated between 1959 and 1971.

The collusion began in 1966, with the advent of a National Institute of Dental Research program aimed at outlining a 10-year plan for the eradication of tooth decay, otherwise known as dental caries. The NIDR - with whom the sugar trade industry developed an informal partnership - formed the National Caries Program (NCP) in 1971.

Because the sugar trade industry could not feasibly dispute the cause-and-effect relationship between sugar and tooth degradation, they instead found a way to lead NIDR research away from the main culprit of widespread cavities.

Guidelines tailored to interests of sugar trade industry
When the NIDR formed the Caries Task Force Steering Committee in 1969 - with the purpose of drafting research priorities for the NCP - the sugar trade industry followed suit by initiating the International Sugar Research Foundation (ISRF). The latter also purported an agenda to identify priorities in tooth care. According to figures in the PLOS report, the ISRF's panel and the NIDR's steering committee were comprised of nearly identical groups of people. In fact, the overlap excluded only two members.

According to Time Magazine, Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University verified the culpability of the NCP: "Dental researchers were well aware that even small amounts of sugars promoted tooth decay." 

As a result, the NCP saw the omission of any research potentially destructive to the sugar industry. Kearns' study uncovered sugar-trade industry strategies for influencing the NCP research, such as funding a scientifically unsound study for a tooth decay vaccination.

Limited sugar intake best for cavity prevention
Writing for The Washington Post's Wonkblog, Roberto A. Ferdman reported that instead of recommending reduced sugar intake, the NCP encouraged dental sealants, fluoride use and the substitution of sucrose for sugar. A year later, the latter was found by scientists to have no efficacy.

While the lasting influence of the sugar industry is prevalent across grocery store aisles, the damage need not be permanent. Tooth decay is largely preventable, and it begins by limiting the use of sugar.

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