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Science in the News

Findings of a Recent Analysis of Guidelines Recommending Limited Added Sugar Intake Called Into Question by Funding Ties to Industry

December 21, 2016 A recent systematic review1 found the evidence supporting guidelines recommending limiting added dietary sugar to be “low quality.”  This review has been called into question2, 3 because of its authors’ ties to food and beverage industry funding. The review by Erickson and colleagues1 evaluated 9 international guidelines offering 12 recommendations on sugar consumption and concluded that the guidelines “do not meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations and are based on low-quality evidence.”  The authors themselves acknowledged that a perceived limitation of the analysis could be the fact that the study was funded by the Technical Committee on Dietary Carbohydrates of the North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).1 A co-published editorial by Schillinger and Kearns2 characterizes ILSI as “a trade group representing The Coca-Cola Company; Dr Pepper Snapple Group; The Hershey Company; Mars, Inc.; Nestlé USA; and PepsiCo, among others.”

Erickson and colleagues found that the recommendation for decreased consumption of added sugars to be consistent across all the guidelines evaluated. However, because their analysis found the supporting rationale and evidence used to support the recommendations was inconsistent, they concluded that the recommendation itself was low- to very-low quality.  This “lack of evidentiary consistency,” as they termed it, led them to conclude that the “results from this review should be used to promote improvement in the development of trustworthy guidelines on sugar intake.” In counterpoint, the editorialists, Schillinger and Kearns, criticized the systematic review methodologies used by Erickson and colleagues and state, “In summary, our concerns about the funding source and methods of the current review preclude us from accepting its conclusion that recommendations to limit added sugar consumption to less than 10% of calories are not trustworthy.”

References

  1. Erickson J, Sadeghirad B, Lytvyn L, Slavin J, Johnston BC. The Scientific Basis of Guideline Recommendations on Sugar Intake: A Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med 2016.
  2. Schillinger D, Kearns C. Guidelines to Limit Added Sugar Intake: Junk Science or Junk Food? Ann Intern Med 2016.
  3. O'Connor A. Study Tied to Food Industry Tries to Discredit Sugar Guidelines. New York Times. December 19, 2016.  Accessed December 21, 2016.

About Science in the News

Science in the News is a service by the American Dental Association (ADA) to its members to present current information about science topics in the news. The ADA is a professional association of dentists committed to the public's oral health, ethics, science and professional advancement; leading a unified profession through initiatives in advocacy, education, research and the development of standards. As a science-based organization, the ADA's evaluation of the scientific evidence may change as more information becomes available. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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