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Does Sugar Kill? How the Sugar Industry Hid the Toxic Truth

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Sugar killsOn a brisk spring Tuesday in 1976, a pair of executives from the Sugar Association stepped up to the podium of a Chicago ballroom to  accept the Oscar of the public relations world, the  Silver Anvil  award for excellence in " the forging of public opinion. "

The trade group had recently pulled off one of the greatest turnarounds in PR history. For nearly a decade, the sugar industry had been buffeted by crisis after crisis as the media and the public soured on sugar and scientists began to view it as a likely cause of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Industry ads claiming that eating sugar helped you lose weight had been  called out  by the Federal Trade Commission, and the Food and Drug Administration had  launched a review  of whether sugar was even safe to eat. Consumption had declined 12 percent in just two years, and producers could see where that trend might lead.

As John "JW" Tatem Jr. and Jack O'Connell Jr., the Sugar Association's president and director of public relations, posed that day with their trophies, their smiles only hinted at the coup they'd just pulled off.

Their winning campaign, crafted with the help of the prestigious public relations firm Carl Byoir & Associates, had been  prompted by a poll showing that consumers had come to see sugar as fattening, and that most doctors suspected it might exacerbate, if not cause, heart disease and diabetes. With an initial annual budget of nearly $800,000 ($3.4 million today) collected from the makers of Dixie Crystals, Domino, C&H, Great Western, and other sugar brands,

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