Can having a sweet tooth lead to heart disease?

According to a New York Times article on sugar, fat, and heart disease, the answer to that question is yes. Too much sugar can indeed increase cardiovascular disease risk. However, over the years, the cause of heart disease has been primarily attributed to saturated fat. Studies have asserted again and again that there is a direct link between saturated fat and heart disease, but have incidentally downplayed sugar’s role in contributing to heart problems as well.

The article reads: “For many decades, health officials encouraged Americans to reduce their fat intake, which led many people to consume low-fat, high-sugar foods that some experts now blame for fueling the obesity crisis.” It is evident that sugar has been overlooked as a main cause of cardiovascular diseases in common research, leading to even more health concerns, such as obesity. The disparities between what studies say about the causes of heart disease and the reality of heart health raises questions about the validity of research that minimize the link between sugar and heart disease.

A number of studies about heart health are implicitly in favour of sugar. Was this coincidental? It in fact was not. Coca-Cola, for example, has “provided millions in funding to researchers who sought to play down the link between sugary drinks and obesity” (NY Times, 2016). Privately funded research studies, such as the aforementioned, prove that some health studies promote the ulterior interests of companies, instead of the interests of the public. Conflicts of interest, such as the one exemplified in this article, confirm the notion: “When research is funded by industry rather than public, it leaves room for influence peddling.”

Examples like these show that, from time to time, conflicts of interests do occur in the health industry. That is why it is imperative for public health organizations to have rigourous standards to prevent conflicts of interest from taking place.

Hypertension Advisory Committee’s policy on conflicts of interest sets out guidelines to ensure that internal members practice transparency and conduct business objectively and without the influence of personal interests. It also outlines steps to take in the case of a conflict of interest arising. Click here to view the HAC policies. Having policies in place help ensure high standards of accountability and prevent issues such as the ones mentioned in the article from occurring.

To read the full article, “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat” from New York times, click here.

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Hypertension Canada is the only national non-profit organization dedicated solely to the prevention and control of hypertension and its complications in Canada. Powered by a professional volunteer network of the leading multidisciplinary experts in hypertension, Hypertension Canada publishes the nation’s clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis, treatment and control of hypertension and pursues its mission through the advancement of research, professional and public education, and advocacy for healthy environments. Looking for ways to lower your blood pressure? Check out these healthy eating tips!

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