September 21, 2016
I grew up in the 1960s, inundated by commercials for margarines made from hydrogenated vegetable oils that “promised” those margarines would keep my cholesterol levels low and protect me from heart disease. Yet in 2015, nearly 50 years later, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of the harm they do, especially to the circulatory system and the heart, the Food and Drug Administration announced that artificial trans fats of the very sort that made up a good percentage of those margarines were no longer “generally recognized as safe,” and food manufacturers would have three years to remove these substances from their products altogether.
How did this happen? How could we get the science so wrong that it was actually backward, and how did it take us 50 years to figure it out?
On September 12, 2016, The New York Times published a very illuminating article by Anahad O’Connor entitled “How the Sugar Industry Shifted the Blame to Fat.” According to O’Connor,
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to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.
The internal sugar industry documents, recently discovered by a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that five decades of research into the role of nutrition and heart disease, including many of today’s dietary recommendations, may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry.
“They were able to derail the discussion about sugar for decades,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at U.C.S.F. and an author of the JAMA Internal Medicine paper. [emphases mine]
As you may imagine from my past writings, I am not the least bit surprised that the sugar industry cynically and deliberately attempted to shape the science of nutrition and heart disease, nor even that their attempt to “derail the discussion about sugar” was so wildly successful for so long. What I do find shocking, however, is just how little money and how few people it took to completely divert the mainstream scientific understanding on the subject for more than 50 years, to the point where many conscientious cardiologists, as well as the American Heart Association, are still advocating low-fat/low-saturated-fat diets, while only recently acknowledging that sugar even plays a role. According to the article,
The documents show that a trade group called the Sugar Research Foundation, known today as the Sugar Association, paid three Harvard scientists the equivalent of about $50,000 in today’s dollars to publish a 1967 review of research on sugar, fat and heart disease. The studies used in the review were handpicked by the sugar group, and the article, which was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the link between sugar and heart health and cast aspersions on the role of saturated fat. [emphasis mine]
A mere $50,000 in today’s dollars – not even a year’s salary for one scientist? That’s all it took to get three Harvard scientists to completely eschew scientific integrity and deliberately promulgate incorrect ideas that not only “derailed the discussion” on nutrition and heart disease, but were also directly responsible for destroying the health of generations of Americans? Way to go, Sugar Association! High five! Even Big Tobacco can’t compete with that kind of bang for the buck.
One of the major objections people have when I tell them that our current vaccine schedule is ruining the health of our children (just as supposedly “heart-healthy” foods ruined the health of adults) is that it can’t be true because, if it were true, it would require a conspiracy on an international scale of such size and complexity that it would defy credulity. I always agree: A conspiracy such as they describe, where very many people (including your garden-variety pediatrician) all know the truth and collude to delude the public, would defy credulity. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Three people may keep a secret if two of them are dead.” But is that sort of conspiracy truly necessary to create the outcome we’re seeing where up is down, and unhealthy is healthy?
I’ve never thought so. In fact, I’ve been saying for a long time that it doesn’t require some huge, complex conspiracy, involving everyone at a couple of government agencies, six major manufacturers, pediatricians’ offices all over the world, mainstream media reporters, and research labs at major universities, to achieve an entrenched backward understanding of the health implications of a one-size-fits-all, shoot-‘em-up vaccine schedule. And this New York Times article is the proof. All that’s required are the following four elements:
1) Some individuals (not very many as it turns out) who put profit before people: As we can see in the Sugar Association documents, our sugar execs and Harvard researchers fit the bill perfectly. These people consciously and deliberately set out to misinform the scientific community, the medical community, and the general public because it was in their monetary interest to do so. And, regrettably, such people abound in a society (like ours) which regards profit as its highest good. How hard is it to imagine that vaccine manufacturers could and would (in a heartbeat) do the exact same thing for a business sector that currently brings in about $40 billion a year and is expected to be a major source of growth? For a prize that big, wouldn’t they be willing to throw around millions if it got them what they wanted? What if I told you that back in 1986, pharmaceutical companies were threatening to get out of the vaccine business altogether? They were getting walloped by the press and in courtrooms all over the country because so many children’s lives were destroyed by DPT vaccines, and they told the U.S. government they were done unless they were absolved of all monetary responsibility for harm caused by their products. What if I told you that Congress obliged and did remove financial liability with the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, and – shockingly – the defunct vaccine industry was suddenly a gold mine.
In 1986, the average American kid got DPT, MMR, and polio vaccines, and vaccine manufacturers were supposedly going broke from damages. Today’s average kid gets hepatitis B, rotavirus, DTaP, Hib, pneumococcal, polio, influenza, MMR, varicella, hepatitis A, HPV, and meningococcal vaccines, with many more anticipated, and the vaccine manufacturers are pulling money in hand over fist, not paying a cent in damages, despite the fact that so many more children are getting hurt.
2) True Believers who ignore the evidence in front of their faces. Anyone want to hazard a guess as to how many people actually read, much less critically, the review study these Harvard guys wrote and/or the studies it was based on? I’d be willing to bet it was precious few. But many, many heard the headlines and believed the study’s conclusions could be taken at face value, even though they saw patients every day who defied its predictions. From the perspective of the True Believer, these patients were either “lying,” “deluded,” or “outliers” because “everybody knows” diets high in fat and saturated fat would clog your arteries and stop your heart. From reading way too many so-called science blogs in the last decade that do exactly the same thing these Harvard researchers did – promote conclusions that are not supported by the scientific research and directly contradict the clinical data at hand – and noting that these conclusions go completely unquestioned by the vast majority of readers (who, ironically, tend to call themselves “skeptics”), who then turn around and ridicule anyone who actually does question the conclusions, I can attest that these people are everywhere. And while being duped themselves, they are often utterly, if amusingly, convinced of their own intellectual superiority.
As a matter of fact, this phenomenon is so widely known and understood that it is enshrined in a fairy tale. In The Emperor’s New Clothes, a couple of con men convince an emperor to hire them to make him a fabulous new wardrobe. He does so only to be provided with . . . nothing. That “nothing” however is talked up so well that all the lords and ladies of the land ignore the evidence of their own eyes and convince themselves that their naked emperor is instead sumptuously attired, until a child – their “intellectual inferior” – points out the obvious, that the emperor is starkers. There are always truth-tellers in society. When the “lords and ladies of the land” are ready to hear truth has much less to do with who is saying it or how it is said than how soon they exhaust their own ability to maintain cognitive dissonance and are finally ready to acknowledge what has been staring them in the face all along. For some, it happens early because they are less invested in the illusion. Others will stubbornly refuse to see The Matrix, continuing to invest all their energy in the illusion until it kills them.
3) People who have figured out at least some part of the truth, but keep quiet out of the need to preserve their incomes and/or their careers. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” Is it really credible that all the lords and ladies of the land can convince themselves that the emperor is wearing the ultimate designer outfit, despite the fact that he is so obviously naked? Surely not. There are many concrete thinkers among us who just don’t have that much imagination. So why don’t even one or two of them speak out? Chances are good they have or desire status, power, and position that are directly dependent upon staying in the good graces of the emperor. Psychological tests have repeatedly shown that when even marginal status is on the line, many will fall in with the crowd, and even more will do so if the task is somewhat difficult or involves a judgment call.
The film The Big Short, about the mortgage-backed securities debacle that led (or should have led) to the demise of a number of “important” banking institutions, contains a few very clear examples of this phenomenon. In the first example, one of the main characters, Mark Baum played by Steve Carrell, becomes convinced that the mortgage-backed securities market is based on fraud: The mortgages that underlie the securities are defaulting in large numbers and yet, illogically, the securities’ ratings do not drop. He goes to see the woman at Moody’s Investor Service (a supposedly independent organization that rates the quality of investment vehicles) who is responsible for the rating he’s interested in and asks her how such a situation is possible. She defends her actions by saying that if she doesn’t give the banks what they want, they’ll just go across the street to Standard & Poor’s and get it there.
The second example happens when Baum takes the story to a journalist he respects who absolutely understands what he has been told and the gravity of it, but refuses to print it because he’s taken a long time to cultivate his industry sources and he doesn’t want to piss them off. After all, his wife is going to have a baby and he needs to keep his job. He asks, “What am I supposed to do? Write a piece called ‘We’re all fucked?’” As it turned out, when the housing bubble collapsed shortly thereafter, demolishing the savings and financial holdings of many, many people with it, that title would have been entirely appropriate.
4) People at government agencies willing to put industry interests before the interests of the public. This element is necessary to allow for true message control, but is also inevitable in the absence of strict and enforced conflict-of-interest rules. After all, government agencies are populated with people, most of whom when left to their own devices will fall into one of the previous three categories. In our Sugar Association example, we find that one of the Harvard scientists, D. Mark Hegsted, went on to become the head of nutrition at the United States Department of Agriculture, where in 1977 he helped draft the forerunner to the federal government’s dietary guidelines. Awesome, huh? Talk about message control! As far as the article indicates, he wasn’t even being paid by the Sugar Association anymore, but he could hardly admit that his own work was fraudulent, could he?
In The Big Short, we get a similar glimpse of how conflicts of interest at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the watchdog agency that is supposed to be working on behalf of taxpayers, kept the agency from protecting consumers. One of Baum’s crew talks to his cousin, who works at the SEC, while at a conference in Vegas. The cousin confesses they aren’t doing much investigation at all at the SEC since their budget was cut and she is in Vegas on her own dime to float her resume with a few investment banks. When her cousin is shocked by the conflict of interest inherent in such actions, she tells him there are no rules against it and it happens all the time. How could an SEC investigation of Goldman Sachs have any sort of integrity if the person performing the investigation is free to seek a job with Goldman Sachs? Answer: It can’t. When it comes to vaccines, similar conflicts of interest are rampant at the CDC. Just a couple of examples: Julie Gerberding, head of the CDC when it recommended three doses of Gardasil for all teenaged girls and when it performed the studies that originally “exonerated” vaccines, especially the MMR, in the development of autism, went on to head the vaccine division of Merck, the maker of the MMR and Gardasil (where she made a heck of a lot more than $50,000). Dr. Paul Offit, the developer of a rotavirus vaccine, sat on the committee which recommended his own vaccine be added to the infant schedule. He too made a heck of a lot more than $50,000.
Corruption at the CDC is so widespread that it isn’t hard to find incontrovertible evidence (verified by Freedom of Information Act requests) that they are playing fast and loose with science. The Verstraeten study, that supposedly gets mercury off the hook in the etiology of autism, actually did the exact opposite before the data was massaged four separate times to make a strong dose-dependent relationship go away. Nearly three years ago, a senior scientist at the CDC, Dr. William Thompson, called Dr. Brian Hooker, an autism dad and advocate, and told him that he’d been tortured by guilt for nearly a decade because there were a number of irregularities with an MMR study published in 2004. Thompson told Hooker exactly which data to request to prove those irregularities (i.e., research fraud of the same sort perpetrated by the Harvard researchers who’d been paid by the Sugar Association), data that Thompson’s co-authors literally threw away. According to Thompson, the CDC had compromised its own research on the subject for over a decade, and it had gotten to the point where Congress should just take the data and give it to an independent organization to analyze because the CDC can’t be trusted. In addition, many of the studies they paid for on vaccines and autism were coordinated by Poul Thorsen, a Danish researcher who is now wanted by the U.S. government for fraud. You might think that the CDC would be concerned about a researcher who evidently had no scruples about defrauding the government to the tune of over a million dollars, but not only does the CDC (and U.S. government) have so little concern about the actions of a man who would commit such fraud that they never called any of his studies into question, the man is still happily publishing scientific research in Denmark, apparently completely unconcerned about the possibility of extradition to stand trial.
Like so many other long-term injustices, I’m delighted that this evidence of the collusion between the sugar industry and Harvard researchers that has clouded the science of nutrition for so long is finally seeing the light of day. But it would have been so much better for the general public if this information had been in the mainstream media, 20, 30, or even 50 years ago, wouldn’t it?
The interesting thing to me is that the health information (if not the corruption angle) has been available to the public for quite a while. There have been real scientists doing real work all along, but only a small number of people were paying any attention at all, and they were labeled “quacks” by mainstream medicine because they challenged what “everybody knows.” I went to a doctor 29 years ago who put me on a low-sugar/low-carb hypoglycemia diet to lower my cholesterol (280 at the start). I was told it was fine to keep eating butter and egg yolks. I thought she was crazy, but I followed that advice for a month. My cholesterol dropped like a hot rock: 140. I was shocked.
Anyone know someone whose cholesterol dropped like that with a low-saturated-fat diet? Yeah, didn’t think so. And don’t even get me started on all the weight my friends gained while on low-fat diets.
Guess what happened to that doctor? Her license to practice medicine was revoked.
Clearly, she, and anyone else paying attention to the evidence right in front of their faces (the emperor’s “free willy,” so to speak), could figure out the truth long before those clinging to the imaginary ideal of “scientific consensus.” Turns out it doesn’t require super brains to see the truth. It just requires curiosity, honesty, and bravery, three things that are not all that common unfortunately. This stuff isn’t true because the New York Times finally took notice and gave its stamp of approval. It was true all along, and good, curious, honest, and brave people lost their careers fighting for that truth and the right to help people get well.
If you’re thinking oh, thank God that’s over, think again. Industry forces are still labeling conscientious physicians and researchers who are brave enough to counter their lies with the truth, who want to help you get and stay well, as “quacks.” When Vioxx, a popular Merck painkiller, was killing a ridiculous number of the people who took it, what did Merck do? They attacked the doctors who raised questions as to its safety. Of course, the doctors were right, and Merck ended up paying over $6 billion in fines and settlements. But Merck made over $11 billion on Vioxx before it was withdrawn from the market, making the $6 billion a mere hand slap for the unethical behavior that cost the lives of many. And right now in California, we are seeing a popular physician, Dr. Robert Sears, who is an acknowledged expert on the subject of vaccines (he literally wrote the book), being investigated for writing a medical exemption for one of his patients. Despite the fact that he actually vaccinates kids every day, he represents enough of a threat that vaccine manufacturers would dearly love to get his medical license revoked.
Vaccines are by no means the only area where we can see the same sort of disconnect between reality and what we’re told by mainstream information sources. There are reputable scientists telling us that glyphosate, GMOs, fluoride, ultrasounds, aluminum, C-sections, and even Tylenol present unacknowledged health hazards that officials and other scientists deny with the bureaucratic equivalent of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” while at the same time ignoring the fact that people are getting sicker by virtually every standard even as they obsessively follow official recommendations.
As my 10-year-old son said this morning, “The truth tends to come out, no matter how many dollar bills you throw on top of it.” (I was impressed with his profundity, but he was pretty sure he’d read it somewhere. If anyone knows where it came from, let me know.) The real question is when will the truth come out? Will it take another 50 years? I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m pretty sure my heart can’t take hearing about many more children who received nine vaccines in a day and either went to the hospital that night with their brains on fire or were found dead in their cribs the next morning. And how many people in the last 50 years had their lives cut short or their health trashed because they took the bogus messaging about saturated fats and sugar to heart – literally? Do we really have to wait another 50 years before we see the folly of what we’re doing now and stop it? Or can we use the example that’s right in front of our noses to finally get enough people talking about the many naked emperors in our midst?
It will take the bravery of a great many people to “take this sinking boat and point it home,” but the more of us there are, the less brave each of us has to be. And, unlike Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, we may not still have time.
Think about it.
Ask yourself who you are listening to when it comes to your health or that of your children? And, more importantly, who are they listening to? Do they truly have your best interests at heart, or do they owe their allegiance to some random corporation that stands to make a killing from your pain and suffering? Are you being told that all is well, even as you and yours get sicker and sicker?
Then ask yourself, isn’t it time you joined the revolution?
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Emperor’s New Clothes image source: patheos.com