Monday, November 21, 2016

The Truth About Sugar and Heart Disease

Article by Jeff Lemlich
By Jeff Lemlich. There they sit on my living room shelf:   Emmy awards, won during my time as a special projects producer for CBS Miami.  Seeing these statues should be a source of pride -- after all, everyone wants to feel appreciated.

But as I gaze upon two, in particular -- for "Heart Disease:  Beating the Odds" and "Cholesterol Counts" -- the realization hits me that maybe I'm not all that proud.  The realization hits me that we, and our viewing audience, may have been duped.

It wasn't our fault.  After all, it was a quarter of a century ago, and back then the things we reported were things that were accepted as fact.  High cholesterol leads to heart disease!  High fat diets also increase our risk!  Odds are your doctor will still tell you that these things are true.

I am not a doctor and have conducted no research, but I know what has worked for me, and I know the tricks that big business uses to advance their own agendas.  Now we are learning how, and why we have come to accept certain things as fact, when in some cases it's very possible (and likely) that exactly the opposite could be true.

Case in point:  a recent report published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggesting that the sugar industry paid tens of thousands of dollars back in 1967 for a favorable report in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.  That report minimized the link between sugar and heart health, and laid much of the blame on saturated fat.

It came at a time when there were competing studies: one looking at the relationship between high-sugar diets and the heart disease epidemic, and another that pointed to saturated fat and dietary cholesterol.   Guess which theory won out?

According to internal sugar industry documents, a top industry executive cooked up a plan to shift public opinion through "our research and information and legislative programs." (see source #1 below).   The industry then (according to the documents) paid big bucks to be able to hand-pick what was published in that study, which in turn influenced the government's dietary recommendations.

To this day, doctors still warn their patients about saturated fat, while believing that sugar promotes... umm... tooth decay.  (Then again, we still believe that fluoride in our water supply is the answer to tooth decay.   Google "the truth about fluoride" for a real eye opener.)

It was recently revealed that Coca-Cola and Pepsi sponsored 96 national health organizations, pouring lots of money into their coffers while opposing measures such as cigarette-style labels on junk food. (see source #3 below).

According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, soda companies have recently been funding scientific "research" about sugary beverages.   

Is that a conflict of interest?   It sure sounds like one to me.

Studies are now pointing to inflammation -- not cholesterol, not saturated fats -- as the leading cause of heart disease.   As Harvard Medical School's Dr. David Ludwig points out, replacing fat in food products with starch and sugar corresponded with the rise in obesity and diabetes. (see source #2 below).  Ludwig points out how some of the most calorie dense foods -- nuts, olive oil, and dark chocolate, among them -- are associated with less weight gain than processed grains, potato products, and other high carb foods that are part of the government's recommendations.

In other words, we were less obese, and heart healthier, when our diets included whole milk, full-fat salad dressings, and fatty meats.  I'm not saying those things are necessarily good for you, just that they're not necessarily the boogie men we were taught to think they are.

In the '60s we were told that "a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down".   We were inundated with songs in which sugar was something great -- the sweetest treat for the sweetest guys and gals.

What we didn't know was how sugar manufacturers were pulling the strings, making us much sicker as the decades wore on.   It's something that everyone needs to hear, if we have any hope of reversing this epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Yes, it  would have been nice to have had this information 25 years ago, when we researched, wrote, and produced our news reports.   We did a good job of telling the story (or what we believed to be the story) and production-wise, we probably earned the awards we received.

The news series helped my own awareness...

To be fair, there was some great information in there that's still relevant, such as how to read nutrition labels, and identifying some of the bad things to avoid (partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup, among them).   Working on those two news series increased my own awareness, and led to a commitment to always read the label before purchasing anything. 

Yet reading a label can only go so far when there's so much confusion about what's good for you, and what's not.  I'm a firm believer in food healing, but the opposite side of the coin is also true.   Replacing highly-processed party treats with whole foods is a good place to begin.

Cholesterol counts?  Maybe... or maybe not.    Heart disease:  beating the odds?   You still can... by keeping an open mind, and not just blindly accepting what special interests want you to believe.

Guest Blogger Note:

Jeff Lemlich is an ex-news producer for Channel 4 (and at one time, Channel 6) in Miami.  He is the music historian for Florida when it comes to Garage Bands of the 1960's.  Jeff is also the author of the book, Savage Lost, and you can learn more about him on his website, .  Health, well-being, and Mind Body fitness are very important to Jeff Lemlich. This blog post was written by Jeff Lemlich and I'm sharing it exclusively on the Mind Body Thoughts Blog.


  1. "Heart Disease:  Beating The Odds" aired in 1990 on WCIX-TV in Miami.   Dr. Steve Greenberg and John Roberts (now with Fox) were the reporters.
  2. "Cholesterol Counts" aired both as a news series and on an installment of the WCIX public affairs show "Insight" in 1992.  Dr. Steve Greenberg and Ken Matz were the reporters , with Cheryl Stopnick providing valuable assistance.


  1. How The Sugar Industry Shifted Blame To Fat
    New York Times, September 12, 2016
  2. Doctor:  Low Fat Diets Stuffed With Misconceptions
    CNN, October 13, 2016 
  3. Big Soda May Be Messing with Our Most Trusted Health Organizations
    Huffington Post, October 2016


This article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice.  Please consult your medical provider for any health decisions regarding this information.

Blog Post And Images (c) 2016 by Mind Body Thoughts and Jeff Lemlich
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