Live Well
October 2016

Sweet Scandal

The other day, I read an article that appeared in the NY Times about the sugar industry, and the fact that it recently came to light that, in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid scientists to produce research highlighting the link between saturated fat and heart disease, and minimizing the role of sugar intake on heart disease. This article is an eye-opener and makes you realize how only you can take control of your own health and well-being.

According to Anahad O’Connor, whose article “How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat” appeared in the NY Times on September 12, “The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.” As a result, much government policy on health and nutrition was influenced by the sugar industry. Indeed, over the past 50-60 years, policy makers and doctors promoted a lowfat diet when, in fact, this may have been (and probably was) detrimental to people’s health (for more on the importance of fat in our diet, check out my blog post from April 2014). Instead of promoting natural fats, food manufacturers created transfats, which have been linked to heart disease and cancer. Not only that, but by downplaying the negative effects on sugar on peoples’ health, the groundwork of today’s epidemic of obesity and diabetes may have been laid (for more on the ill effects of sugar on health, check out my blog post from June 2014).

The sad thing is that the practice of industry or special interest groups funding health and nutrition research continues to happen today. It’s a known fact that there is a “revolving door” between officials working in the government and in the tobacco, pharmaceutical, chemical and/or food industries. As a matter of fact, according to the New York Times article, one of the scientists who worked on the research for the Sugar Study went on to become the head of nutrition at the USDA. And, as Marion Nestle writes in her book “Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), “You can most easily observe corporate capture by food and beverage ccompanies by looking at what happens when they sponsor research. Soda companies actively encourage scientists to apply for grants to conduct research studies, and some scientists are willing, perhaps eager, to take advantage of such opportunities. It is no coincidence that the conclusions of sponsored studies almost invariably favor the sponsor’s interest…In general, reviews funded by soda companies rarely find evidence for negative health effects of soda consumption.” (P. 260) Government policy on health and nutrition should not be driven by specific industry or special interest groups. Period.

What this highlights is the fact that we need to be more critical of “scientific” research. It is up to us to assess the veracity and integrity of health studies by determining who sponsored the study and what they might gain from it. However, requesting that scientists be more transparent in their research may take a long time so, in the meantime, we as individuals need to take charge of our own health. Most foods (including sugar and fat) in moderation are okay for us, and no one diet or way of eating is right for all of us all of the time.

The main thing is to keep it real. Stay away from processed foods or synthetic versions of foods (for example, transfats or artificial sweeteners). Instead, focus on whole, real foods and everything in moderation.


Cook Well

Rice Gratin with Carrots and Leeks

This recipe is nice for the colder days that are approaching. It takes a bit of time
to make but is as good on the second day as the first, and is filling enough that it
can be accompanied by a simple green salad or beet salad.
Serves 6-8

1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups milk
1/2 small onion
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
4 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped tarragon, parsley, thyme
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 lb. Leeks, thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed
1 lb. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped marjoram
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and 9×13 baking dish. Cook rice according to package directions.
  2. 2. Place milk, onion, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Let stand for 15 minutes then strain.
  3. 3. In a separate pan, melt butter over low heat and add flour. Whisk lightly and then add the milk. Cook mixture, stirring well, until it is thick, about 7-10 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set aside.
  4. 4. In a medium saute pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened.
  5. 5. Add leeks and carrots and saute until lightly browned and soft, 10-12 minutes. You may need to cover the pan to allow the carrots to cook fully. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. 6. Combine the rice, bechamel sauce, carrot mixture and Parmesan in a large bowl and mix well. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  7. 7. Bake for 25 minutes and serve.