Some of the most significant and valuable research projects involve a look into the past. Going back to the archive of 319 industry documents, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), discovered some alarming information about the National Institutes of Health and their relationship with the sugar industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, tooth decay and its link to sugar intake is widely understood. American children are made aware, at an early age, that too much sugar can cause cavities and other types of oral health problems. But why is this so prevalent today when the knowledge of sugar causing tooth decay was available back in 1950?
According to new research information revealed from those 319 industry documents, there was a sugar industry trade organization, representing 30 international members, which ignored the fact that sugar led to tooth decay. Instead, this organization created a new strategy to pinpoint alternative techniques to limit tooth decay. In 1969, the National Institutes of Health determined that a focus on reducing sucrose consumption was not a realistic health measure. As such, the National Institutes of Health and the sugar industry trade organization worked together to ignore the warnings about sugar and tooth decay in an effort to circumvent the issue.
Instead of maintaining their efforts to reduce sugar intake and thus limit tooth decay, the sugar industry chose to concentrate on reducing sugar’s damages by funding research aimed at the study of enzymes that fragment dental plaque and by looking into vaccines against tooth decay. This information is rather disturbing for the public. As the leading chronic disease for all children in the United States, tooth decay continues to affect millions of U.S. children. While entirely preventable, the sugar industry’s dark past has made it difficult to overcome these issues.
Cristin Kearns, DDS, MBA, a UCSF postdoctoral scholar who discovered the archives said, “The dental community has always known that preventing tooth decay required restricting sugar intake. It was disappointing to learn that the policies we are debating today could have been addressed more than forty years ago.” These findings serve as yet another “wake up call” for public health and the importance of informing the community of health threats. Sugar is clearly a danger for oral health and intake must be limited for children.