How the sugar industry used dietitians to reach dentists

2017 02 03 16 15 30 311 Sugar Drinks 400

The sugar industry used dietitians to help spread pro-sugar messages to dental professionals in the 1970s, according to research presented on June 19 at the 2019 International Association for Dental Research (IADR) conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The sugary industry strategically used dietitians to influence the dental community's thoughts on sugar, according to presenter Ifunanya Okeke, a research fellow at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Dentistry.

Previous research from UCSF suggests that the sugar industry influenced caries eradication research during the 1960s and 1970s. The new research shows the U.S. Sugar Association also created a public relations campaign around the same time to sway the public's and dental professionals' opinions of sugar.

The Regional Nutrition Information Program used dietitians to help spread a positive message about sugar and health, the researchers found. Dietitians associated with the sugar industry targeted universities, public schools, professional associations, and local media, according to dozens of internal documents reviewed by the researchers.

The campaign appears to be a success, they noted. These dieticians influenced a dental conference to add pro-sugar speakers, created a media program to minimize sugar's role in tooth decay, and criticized dentist researchers looking into sugary breakfast cereals.

The documents obtained by the researchers end in 1978, but the U.S. Sugar Association website still has information about the role of sugar in dental health. Based on their findings, the researchers cautioned dental and public health communities to reconsider corporate relationships, including those with potential conflicts of interest and past activities that are detrimental to oral health.

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