Big Sugar Has Been Paying Off Science For Decades

A major report has come out identifying in no uncertain terms that sugar is bad and soda companies are lying to us. The sky, as it turns out, is also blue.

In a special report filed earlier this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the sugar industry's lobbying organization, the Sugar Association, stands accused of paying prominent nutritionists in the 1950s and 60s to downplay the connection between sugar and coronary heart disease, and to instead shift the blame to fats. These nutritionists' findings have been used to direct the course of federal regulation regarding nutrition ever since.

The Sugar Association, then called the Sugar Research Foundation, reviewed early drafts of reports that would later be published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine and edited them for content and overall message. They stand accused of doing this in the interest of Big Sugar's profit margins.

With over 370,000 deaths per year attributed to coronary heart disease over the past five decades, the industry behind this corrupted research potentially has the deaths of at least 18.5 million people on their hands.

So sugar, a highly addictive crystalline substance, wreaks havoc on our bodies and sends us to an early grave. What's more, a massive corporate lobby has paid for bad science in an effort to keep us from going cold turkey on the stuff. anyone really that surprised? Anyone?

Think back to the last sugary substance you had. Think about how it made you feel afterwards. Now think back to roughly twenty minutes before that moment. What was going through your head?

The last sugary substance I had was three handfuls of Mike & Ikes at about 3:00 yesterday afternoon. Yes, three. I had gotten 7.5 hours of sleep the night prior, ran two miles that morning, and had three cups of coffee all before 11 AM.

Yet even with that optimal day of an energy lifestyle, ten minutes after my Mike & Ikes, I was falling asleep at my desk.

An hour later, my joints were sore.

My stomach was grumbling and my teeth hurt on my way home.

I didn't want the hamburger I grilled for myself (and I love hamburgers!) and I went to bed at 8:30 PM out of sheer exhaustion.

Twenty minutes prior to ingesting enough sugar to kill a gerbil, I thought to myself, "I think I'll pop over to the snack station and have a Mike & Ike or two. But only a couple! I deserve it."

Is anyone surprised that a substance which turned a healthy, grown man into a sore, sleepy grouch with zero self-control and a toothache might be bad for their heart?!

Is anyone surprised that a massively profitable industry has paid tens of thousands of dollars (nearly $50K in today's money) to keep its product's detriments a secret?

Candy makes you crash. Soda rots your teeth. Energy drinks light your blood on fire. I made up the last one, but after "rots your teeth," it doesn't sound so out of the blue, does it?

Why the hell does a nation full of free-thinking adults need scientists to tell them they shouldn't eat a whole lot of a powdered substance that can change the ways your neurons fire?

I'm not sure what the worst part about this is: the fact that sugar's true effects could have been identified decades ago, the fact that we needed someone to tell us it was bad, or the fact that fat has been utterly thrown under the bus in its place.

To be fair, fat is no cakewalk either. But ask yourself this: How do you feel after you drink a 20 oz bottle of Sprite, and how do you feel after you eat a freshly grilled hamburger? Assuming your burger isn't from the equally-as-dangerous end of the fat industry as the Sprite is (fast food), your burger probably leaves you feeling pretty good. You might be in need of a nap, but it's not as if your body is shutting down. Eating one home-cooked cheeseburger with a little homemade mayo doesn't leave one desperate for three more. An all-beef hot dog doesn't make one's joints seize up.

You might have to jog off a growing midsection, but that beef isn't going to literally send you into withdrawal.

Our bodies evolved to eat a few things pretty damn well. Fatty things can be found on every single continent in thousands of forms (beef, pork, poultry... you know, animals). Sugarcane comes from one place on earth, India. No shade towards India, but if a foodstuff needs to travel across a vast trading network before it can arrive on your plate, your body probably doesn't process it very well.

There's nothing wrong with eating outside of that diet in today's modern age - What's the point of being outside the food chain if not? - but we shouldn't need nutritionists to tell us that a substance that turns us from happy to miserable in twenty minutes needs to be consumed in measured moderation.

Eat less sugar. Try to consume things that you can at least conceptually link to something that actually exists in nature. Run a little bit farther every day. Stop letting marketers tell you how to live your life.

We can do this, folks.


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Best case: redrawing borders leads to peace, prosperity and EU membership. But there's also a worst case

Image: SRF
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  • The Yugoslav Wars started in 1991, but never really ended
  • Kosovo and Serbia are still enemies, and they're getting worse
  • A proposed land swap could create peace - or reignite the conflict

The death of Old Yugoslavia

Image: public domain

United Yugoslavia on a CIA map from 1990.

Wars are harder to finish than to start. Take for instance the Yugoslav Wars, which raged through most of the 1990s.

The first shot was fired at 2.30 pm on June 27th, 1991, when an officer in the Yugoslav People's Army took aim at Slovenian separatists. When the YPA retreated on July 7th, Slovenia was the first of Yugoslavia's republics to have won its independence.

After the wars

Image: Ijanderson977, CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Map of former Yugoslavia in 2008, when Kosovo declared its independence. The geopolitical situation remains the same today.

The Ten-Day War cost less than 100 casualties. The other wars – in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo (1) – lasted much longer and were a lot bloodier. By early 1999, when NATO had forced Serbia to concede defeat in Kosovo, close to 140,000 people had been killed and four million civilians displaced.

So when was the last shot fired? Perhaps it wasn't: it's debatable whether the Yugoslav Wars are actually over. That's because Kosovo is a special case. Although inhabited by an overwhelming ethnic-Albanian majority, Serbians are historically very attached to it. More importantly, from a legalistic point of view: Kosovo was never a separate republic within Yugoslavia but rather a (nominally) autonomous province within Serbia.

Kosovo divides the world

Image: public domain

In red: states that recognise the independence of Kosovo (most EU member states – with the notable exceptions of Spain, Greece, Romania and Slovakia; and the U.S., Japan, Turkey and Egypt, among many others). In blue: states that recognise Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo (most notably Russia and China, but also other major countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and Iran).

The government of Serbia has made its peace and established diplomatic relations with all other former Yugoslav countries, but not with Kosovo. In Serbian eyes, Kosovo's declaration of independence in 2008 was a unilateral and therefore legally invalid change of state borders. Belgrade officially still considers Kosovo a 'renegade province', and it actually has a lot of international support for that position (2).

The irony is that on the longer term, both Kosovo and Serbia want the same thing: EU membership. Ironically, that wish could lead to Yugoslav reunification some years down the road – within the EU. Slovenia and Croatia have already joined, and all other ex-Yugoslav states would like to follow their example. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have already submitted an official application. The EU considers Bosnia and Kosovo 'potential candidates'.

Kosovo is the main stumbling block on Serbia's road to EU membership. Even after the end of hostilities, skirmishes continued, between the ethnically Albanian majority and the ethnically Serbian minority within Kosovo, and vice versa in Serbian territories directly adjacent. Tensions are dormant at best. A renewed outbreak of armed conflict is not unthinkable.

Land for peace?

Image: BBC

Mitrovica isn't the only area majority-Serb area in Kosovo, but the others are enclaved and fear being abandoned in a land swap.

In fact, relations between Kosovo and Serbia have deteriorated spectacularly in the past few months. At the end of November, Kosovo was refused membership of Interpol, mainly on the insistence of Serbia. In retaliation, Kosovo imposed a 100% tariff on all imports from Serbia. After which Serbia's prime minister Ana Brnabic refused to exclude her country's "option" to intervene militarily in Kosovo. Upon which Kosovo's government decided to start setting up its own army – despite its prohibition to do so as one of the conditions of its continued NATO-protected independence.

The protracted death of Yugoslavia will be over only when this conflict is finally resolved. The best way to do that, politicians on both sides have suggested, is for the borders reflect the ethnic makeup of the frontier between Kosovo and Serbia.

The biggest and most obvious pieces of the puzzle are the Serbian-majority district of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, and the Albanian-majority Presevo Valley, in southwestern Serbia. That land swap was suggested previous summer by Hashim Thaci and Aleksandar Vucic, presidents of Kosovo and Serbia respectively. Best-case scenario: that would eliminate the main obstacle to mutual recognition, joint EU membership and future prosperity.

If others can do it...

Image: Ruland Kolen

Belgium and the Netherlands recently adjusted out their common border to conform to the straightened Meuse River.

Sceptics and not a few locals warn that there also is a worst-case scenario: the swap could rekindle animosities and restart the war. A deal along those lines would almost certainly exclude six Serbian-majority municipalities enclaved deep within Kosovo. While Serbian Mitrovica, which borders Serbia proper, is home to some 40,000 inhabitants, those enclaves represent a further 80,000 ethnic Serbs – who fear being totally abandoned in a land swap, and eventually forced out of their homes.

Western powers, which sponsored Kosovar independence, are divided over the plan. U.S. officials back the idea, as do some within the EU. But the Germans are against – they are concerned about the plan's potential to fire up regional tensions rather than eliminate them.

In principle, countries consider their borders inviolate and unchanging, but land swaps are not unheard of. Quite recently, Belgium and the Netherlands exchanged territories so their joint border would again match up with the straightened course of the Meuse river (3). But those bits of land were tiny, and uninhabited. And as the past has amply shown, borders carry a lot more weight in the Balkans.

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