Wikipedia, Stephen Barrett, and Sweet Suicide
By Gary Null PhD and Amy Mitura JD
Millions of people, throughout the world, after decades of consuming an American-style diet, are starting to pay attention to what they are putting into their bodies. Finally, there is a conscious questioning of the safety the American diet. The five (5) items that people generally consume which have been scientifically proven to cause disease: sugar, meat, pesticide-laden foods, saturated and trans fats, and refined carbohydrates. Unfortunately, if you go to Wikipedia to become educated on disease prevention, you are going to be getting information that is not accurate and part of the reason is that Wikipedia editors get their information from one Dr. Stephen Barrett. As a result, Dr. Barrett has an enormous influence on people’s health choices and we have decided to examine Barrett’s actual claims in his writing and compare those claims with the state of the peer-reviewed science published on PubMed. This first report covers sugar.
In his book The Health Robbers, Stephen Barrett states “sugar has been subject to particularly vicious attack, being falsely blamed for most of the world’s ailments.” He also states that “there is no evidence that sugar increases the risk of developing heart disease” and that “sugar is not the cause of obesity.” Regrettably for people who choose to believe him (or the editors who use him as a source) he was wrong. Terribly wrong. Here is just some of the existing peer-reviewed literature showing sugar as a cause of both heart disease and obesity:
- The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for SugarRelated to Coronary Heart Disease. DiNicolantonio JJ et al. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. (2016)
- Added sugarintake and cardiovascular diseasesmortality among US adults. Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Apr;174(4):516-24.
- Body composition assessment for the definition of cardiometabolic risk. Amato MC, Guarnotta V, Giordano C.
- Differential effects of fructose versus glucose on brain and appetitive responses to food cues and decisions for food rewards Shan Luo,a,b,cJohn R. Monterosso,b,dKayan Sarpelleh,a,c and Kathleen A. Pagea,c,d,1 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U S A. 2015 May 19; 112(20): 6509–6514.
- Dietary components in the development of leptin resistance. Vasselli JR1, Scarpace PJ, Harris RB, Banks WA. Advances in Nutrition2013 Mar 1;4(2):164-75. doi: 10.3945/an.112.003152.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Malik VS1, Pan A, Willett WC, Hu FB. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2013 Oct;98(4):1084-102. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.058362.
One study, Sugar Industry and Coronary Heart Disease Research: A Historical Analysis of Internal Industry Documents, Kearns CE et al. JAMA Intern Med. (2016), tells us that the “early warning signals of the coronary heart disease (CHD) risk of sugar (sucrose) emerged in the 1950s.” The authors examined Sugar Research Foundation (SRF) internal documents, historical reports, and statements relevant to early debates about the dietary causes of CHD…We learn that SRF sponsored its first CHD research project in 1965, a literature review published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It singled out fat and cholesterol as the dietary causes of CHD and downplayed evidence that sucrose consumption was also a risk factor. Singled out fat and cholesterol and downplayed evidence of sucrose consumption. The SRF set the review’s objective, contributed articles for inclusion, and received drafts, yet the SRF’s funding and role was not disclosed. The authors suggest that policymaking committees should consider giving less weight to food industry-funded studies and include mechanistic and animal studies as well as studies appraising the effect of added sugars on multiple CHD biomarkers and disease development.
Diabetes and Cancer
In addition to evidence that sugar increases the risk of developing heart disease and obesity, sugar also puts people at risk for type 2 diabetes and cancer.
- Risk Factors Contributing to Type 2 Diabetes and Recent Advances in the Treatment and Prevention. Yanling Wu,1,2,✉Yanping Ding,1,2Yoshimasa Tanaka,3 and Wen Zhang2,✉ International Journal of Medical Sciences. 2014; 11(11): 1185–1200.
- The Relationship of Sugar to Population-Level Diabetes Prevalence: An Econometric Analysis of Repeated Cross-Sectional Data. Sanjay Basu,1 , * Paula Yoffe,2 Nancy Hills, 3 and Robert H. Lustig 4 , 5
PLoS One. 2013; 8(2): e57873.
- Intake of Fruit Juice and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- Association between sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis. Meng Wang, Min Yu, Le Fang, and Ru-Ying Hu.* J Diabetes Investig. 2015 May; 6(3): 360–366.
- Obesity as a Major Risk Factor for Cancer. Giovanni De Pergola*and Franco Silvestris
- The Links Between Insulin Resistance, Diabetes, and Cancer. Etan Orgel, MD, MS and Steven D. Mittelman, MD, PhD
- Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.2011 Sep;20(9):1831-7. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-11-0402. Epub 2011 Jul 15.
- Sucrose, high-sugar foods, and risk of endometrial cancer–a population-based cohort study. Friberg E1, Wallin A, Wolk A. Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, The National Institute of Environmental Medicine, Stockholm, Sweden.
We only gave you a small sampling of the available peer-reviewed literature. These studies show that consuming too much added sugar increases your risk of weight gain and can lead to visceral fat accumulation, increases heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and inflammation, and that high-sugar diets have been linked to an increased risk of dying from heart disease. Stephen Barrett’s statements on sugar demonstrate that he is wrong and grossly biased, as is any literature using him as a source, including Wikipedia. And by using him as a source, Wikipedia may be contributing to heart disease and obesity, diabetes and cancer.
According to an article on healthline.com, there are 11 reasons why too much sugar is bad.
- Can Cause Weight Gain
- May Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease
- Has Been Linked to Acne
- Increases Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- The author of the article, Jillian Kubala, MS, RD notes that while there are many reasons “the worldwide prevalence of diabetes has more than doubled over the past 30 years” that “there is a clear link between excessive sugar consumption and diabetes risk.”
- May Increase Your Risk of Cancer
- May Increase Your Risk of Depression
- May Accelerate the Skin Aging Process
- Can Increase Cellular Aging
- Drains Your Energy
- Can Lead to Fatty Liver
- Other Health Risks
According to “When saturated fats are replaced with refined carbohydrates and specifically with added sugars (like sucrose or high fructose corn syrup), the end result is not favorable for heart health…Additionally a diet high in added sugars has been found to cause a 3-fold increased risk of death due to cardiovascular disease.”
Barrett also claims sugar is only one factor in the tooth-decay process and hypoglycemia is not caused by sugar.