the irresistible fleet of bicycles

on decay: dental, moral, and otherwise

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In delightfully unsurprising news for conspiracy theorists, a recent paper published in PLOS Medicine Journal reveals a rather crooked historical alliance between the National Institute of Dental Research and the cane and beet sugar industry.

The distillation of the story is alarmingly familiar: federal health organization caves to pressure from big ag and industry groups, turning a blind eye to risk to Americans’ health.

Thousands of internal industry documents analyzed by the paper’s authors reveal that the Sugar Industry knew as early as 1950 that sugar was a key player in dental decay. In order to prevent dentists from doing what dentists arguably do best (handing out apples on Halloween?), trade organizations attempted to deflect attention from the sugar question towards research on enzymes that reduce dental plaque and a dubious vaccine against cavities.

The study notes that a whopping “78% of a report submitted to the NIDR by the sugar industry was directly incorporated into the NIDR’s first request for research proposals” for its National Caries Program (NCP), whose purported goal was to eliminate tooth decay in America. Meanwhile, the NIDR neglected to call for research that would potentially damage sugar industry interests, and, when the agency launched the NCP, it omitted this kind of research from its priorities.

The Sugar Industry responded to the paper by calling its tactics “‘a textbook’ play from the activist agenda.”

To which we say, “Carie on!”

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