Researchers skew findings in favor of soda

A few months ago, I told you about a study that blew the lid off the illicit relationship between the sugar industry and the supposedly “unbiased” scientific community. The scandal was so huge I dubbed it Sugargate…but it turns out, that initial study was just the beginning.

According to another new study, the bias involved in studies that defend sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is striking — even by industry-sponsored study standards. And that’s saying a lot.

Now, I make no secret of my disdain for the makers of SSBs. If you ask me, they shoulder the blame for an outrageous amount of disease and death across the world. And they do it all by misleading and manipulating the public.

Given my views on the SSB industry, you might think that nothing they do could surprise me. But when these new findings came out, even I was taken aback. I just hope this will be the study that finally grabs people’s attention — and turns them away from sugary drinks once and for all.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. Of those, 26 found no link between SSBs and diabetes or obesity.

Can you guess what all 26 of those studies had in common? If you guessed that they were all funded by the SSB industry, you’re right on the money.

Now for bonus points: Guess how many of the other 34 studies — the ones showing that (duh) SSBs are linked to diabetes and obesity — received industry funding.

The answer is one. One measly study that received industry funding actually found what is painfully clear if you use even the most modest amount of scientific rigor — or common sense.

Let me put this another way. The studies funded by Big Sugar were 34 times more likely than independent studies to find that soda is A-OK for diabetes and obesity.

Who’d a thunk? I know I’ve been telling you for years now that sugar kills, but now we know why we’ve had such a hard time getting the message out. What we see here is something between collusion and a full-fledged cover-up. And it has kept the public confused and deceived by conflicting research — all because no one was looking at who actually funded the studies.

Essentially, the SSB industry is manipulating the contemporary scientific processes to create controversy and advance their business interests. And all at the expense of the public’s health.  Guess who is supposed to protect us from things like this? That’s right, it’s the FDA, the USDA, the AMA, etc. All of whom, as I’ve told you, also gladly take handouts from Big Sugar any chance they get. Just like the researchers they’re supposed to be keeping on the straight and narrow.

Stupidly (or perhaps this is part of the collusion) the USDA Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Bias Assessment Tool does not even include funding as a source of bias. Funding is always a source of bias. It’s how and why studies are designed — to prove a point. The SSB industry isn’t going to support research that says negative things about the very thing it’s trying to sell us. It’s that simple.

For that reason (and others), there is always going to be bias in scientific research. Bias is hard to completely rule out. But the bias proven by this study is so far out of the ordinary that it’s shocking.

I will continue to point out what goes on in the SSB industry because it so deeply affects our health. That is the point of my outrage. One in seven Americans now has diabetes. Which is crazy. As a physician, I have taken care of people throughout my career who are dying or having amputations, need dialysis, or going blind from diabetes. And these are people who have been consuming sugar-sweetened beverages all their lives.

In this particular instance, this bias also creates a significant social problem. We have got to learn to make better public health decisions for our entire society — not just for those who can afford to be educated and know about these things.