But by the 1960s, two opposing ideas about what caused heart disease emerged. John Yudkin, a British physiologist and nutritionist, suggested that sugar consumption was linked to incidence of and mortality rates from coronary heart disease: Specifically, eating too much sugar might boost levels of triglycerides, a type of fat found in blood. Meanwhile, Ancel Keys, an American physiologist, argued that heart disease was related to scarfing down too many bad types of fat, as such fats may raise cholesterol and possibly cause a heart attack. Keys' theory became more widely accepted than Yudkin's.
Whatever happened to Yudkin's theory? Researchers suggest that when the sugar industry "manipulated" the scientific debate on heart disease, his theory -- along with other sugar consumption research -- was swept under the rug.
Old letters reveal new secrets
The new paper was led by Cristin Kearns, a postdoctoral researcher at the UCSF School of Dentistry, who collected letters dating from 1959 to 1971 between executives at the Sugar Research Foundation and various scientists.
The researchers discovered that executives in the sugar industry funded research in the 1960s and '70s that, upon the executives' request, cast doubt on the health risks of sugar while promoting the risks of fat. As fat was slowly reduced in the American diet, sugar was used more often to keep foods tasty, Glantz said.