So-Called Experts Lost the Trust of the American People

Tom Nichols is a professor and soi-disant expert on foreign and defense policy. He is apparently upset that people aren’t paying him enough attention.

It’s not just that people don’t know a lot about science or politics or geography. They don’t, but that’s an old problem. The bigger concern today is that Americans have reached a point where ignorance—at least regarding what is generally considered established knowledge in public policy—is seen as an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to demonstrate their independence from nefarious elites–and insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong.

Well, people don’t as a rule lose confidence in experts that maintain a good track record of success. New England Patriots fans, for instance, generally retain a high degree of trust in the judgment of Bill Belichick. Only when supposed experts screw up do people start to lose confidence. And the fact is that, over the past 15 years or so, America’s experts and elites have put together an appalling record of failure that has resulted in real suffering for millions of ordinary people. Professor Glenn Reynolds offers a few of the more prominent examples.

It was experts that gave us the financial crisis, it was experts that gave us the Middle East meltdown, it was experts who gave us the obesity epidemic and the opioid crisis. And yet the experts pay no price for their failures, and cling bitterly to their credentials and self-esteem, while claiming that the problem lies in the anti-intellectualism of ordinary citizens.

Hard to improve on the pithy elegance of Reynolds’ statement, but I would like to point out just a few more of the recent failures of the elites, including the fact that many of the most eminent economists in the country said that Obamacare was going to be a resounding success.

A different group of experts at the FAA maintained until 2001 that airline passengers should not fight back against hijackers. Good thing the flight 93 passengers did not follow the advice of the experts.

Doctors spent decades telling Americans, “Stay out of the sun, you’ll get skin cancer.” Then half of Americans ended up deficient in Vitamin D, one of the most potent anti-cancer agents. Doctors also made statins the most-prescribed class of drugs in America, even though statins can cause severe unintended harm, and despite the fact that the lipid theory of heart disease on which the drugs are based has been all but discredited.

Over the last year and a half, every professional political prognosticator told us that Donald Trump would never win the GOP nomination, and then they told us that he could never win the presidency. They also told us that Brexit would never happen.

Given the record of failure, I sympathize with people wanting to “assert autonomy” from the credentialed-but-hapless experts. Trust is not given; it has to be earned. And the way to earn trust is through real success, not through lame-ass credentialism. Nichols’ piece should be re-titled “How the Experts Lost the Trust of the American People.”

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll close with a pic that sums up the state of ‘expertise’ in America today. But first, let’s introduce one of America’s foremost experts on nutrition and obesity.

Kelly Brownell is Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and is a professor of public policy. He also serves on the board of directors of the Duke Global Health Institute.

In 2006 Time magazine listed Brownell among “The World’s 100 Most Influential People” in its special Time 100 issue featuring those “.. whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.”…

Brownell has advised the White House, members of congress, governors, world health and nutrition organizations, and media leaders on issues of nutrition, obesity and public policy. He was cited as a “moral entrepreneur” with special influence on public discourse in a history of the obesity field and was cited by Time magazine as a leading “warrior” in the area of nutrition and public policy.

Brownell is the guy on the left.

Beware Big Soda

We’ve reported previously attempts by the sugar and soft drink industry to whitewash the role of sugar in chronic disease. In particular, the sugar industry in the 1960s paid Harvard researchers to divert attention from sugar by focusing on saturated fat as a cause of heart disease. Similarly, the soft drink industry pays health organizations to go easy on sugary drinks.

Regarding the influence of Big Soda on nutritional advice, more evidence came to light this week in the context of the election for the presidency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest group of dieticians in the United States. The contest got really interesting when one of the two finalists, Neva Cochran, was exposed for having ties to Big Soda.

In a tweet, Anna Macnak, a member of the academy and a dietitian from Texas, revealed Cochran’s clients included the American Beverage Association, the soda industry’s lobbying group, and the Calorie Control Council, a group representing the low-calorie food and drink industry that functions as a trade group for artificial sweeteners.

Cochran’s pro-sugar bias was evident in her nutritional advice, at least as reflected by her tweets before she set her tweets to ‘protected’.

Cochran positions soda as part of a balanced diet, Pfister noted, explaining she even goes as far as promoting soda as a necessary source of calories for active kids and teens in a tweet that reads “Calorie needs R personal. Active teens: soda, lemonade, sweet tea & choc milk can replace calories & fluid. #Advisor.”

Cochran even illustrated her tweet with an old propaganda ad put out by the sugar industry in the 1960s.

Nothing says ‘cutting edge nutrition science’ quite like tweeting 50-year-old industry advertising.

Conveniently, Cochran also tweeted against soda taxes.

“Soda taxes fall flat – @USATODAY editorial. Better-informed consumers, not taxes, can help prevent obesity. #Advisor” Cochran’s tweet read.

Not sure what qualifies dieticians to pontificate on the effects of tax policy, but hey, it’s a free country.

When some nutritionists tried to make public Cochran’s ties to Big Soda, elements of the nutrition establishment tried to shut them down.

Days after her tweet posted, the academy emailed Macnak and asked her to remove the tweet. In the email chain obtained by Mic, the academy told Macnak that her tweet provided a negative bias against Cochran, one of the two candidates. Using social media to spread negative messaging about candidates is in violation of the academy’s code of ethics, the academy said.

A member of the academy since 2008, Macnak noted that she sought transparency and wasn’t attempting a personal attack on Cochran. She was committed to “full disclosure of any real or perceived conflict of interest,” she said.

The academy’s response to Macnak’s concerns? They’ll put off discussing them until the spring, ostensibly after a new president would be elected.

When Kyle Pfister of Ninjas for Health, a startup that consults for public health organizations, included part of Macnak’s emails with the academy in a Medium piece about the presidential election. Representatives from Medium told him they received a complaint that he included “private communications…without the consent of all parties involved.” Medium asked him to edit the post or they would take it down.

A spokesperson for Medium later told Pfister he would not have to revise his post after all because Medium allows users to post email exchanges with “people speaking on behalf of business or organizations,” Pfister said in an email. Medium later confirmed to Mic that the post “was flagged as being in violation of Medium’s rules. On review it was found not to be in breach.”

“Censorship is yet another industry tactic to silence critics,” Pfister said. “It also seems to be an admission that these corporate connections are a problem, if so much effort is going into hiding them.”

Indeed. There certainly seems to be a lot of attempted censorship going around these days. That’s what happens when so many people rely on lies to maintain their wealth and status.

Fake News: ‘Climate Refugees’

For some time now, scientists have understood that Louisiana’s coastline is rapidly sinking under the weight of sediment dumped by the Mississippi River.

The sinking of Louisiana’s Gulf coast could be due to the shallowest delta sediments pushing down the underneath layers, a new study suggests.
Louisiana’s coastal erosion causes the loss of land at a catastrophic rate of 25 to 35 square miles per year, equivalent to one football field every 15 minutes.
Many scientists believe that the subsidence, as the sinking is called, takes place because as sediment accumulates and the Mississippi Delta thickens, the crust of the Earth as a whole gets pressed downward…
[C]ompaction of the most recent sediments, near the surface, causes the land to subside.
The young delta sediments, rich in water and heavy, are pressing down and squeezing the water out of the older sediments beneath and allowing the surface to sink[.]

The problem in Louisiana is not that the sea is rising but that the land is literally sinking. The problem is one of geology, not climate. But that didn’t stop fake news outlets like CNN and the New York Daily News from attributing the problem to “climate change.”

Isle de Jean Charles, located 80 miles from New Orleans, has been sinking slowly. Since 1955, it has lost 98% of its land mass to rising sea levels, devastating hurricanes, and the construction of oil and gas canals along the marsh.
The latest research shows that, if the current rate of global warming continues, sea levels have the potential to rise more than three feet by the end of this century.
That would certainly mean the end of Isle de Jean Charles. Today, only half a square mile of land remains above water.

The sea level has been rising for 20,000 years, and since 1955, it has risen only about five inches. Needless to say, a five inch rise cannot submerge an island that had been 11 miles long and five miles wide.

Recognizing the danger, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $48 million to the state of Louisiana in 2016 to relocate the community to higher ground, off the island — making the residents of Isle de Jean Charles the country’s first-ever climate refugees.

“Climate refugees.”

TV Clown Talks Climate

Many years ago, an astronomer was asked by a magazine to write 500 words on the question “Is there life on Mars?” The astronomer understood that neither he nor anyone else really knew the answer, so he copied the words “nobody knows” 250 times.

That was a good example of somebody not claiming more scientific certainty than really exists. In contrast Bill Nye, an actor who plays a scientist on TV, claims to understand much more about the human impact on earth’s climate than anybody really does. Nye was a guest on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, and Carlson asked Nye an excellent question.

To what degree is climate change caused by human activity? Is it a hundred percent caused by human activity, is it 74.3%? It’s “settled science,” please tell us to what degree human activity is responsible.

Nye’s answer was astonishing.

“A hundred percent!” Nye interjected. “If that’s the number you want. Humans are causing it to happen catastrophically fast.”

Tucker vs. Bill Nye the Science Guy

Now, most scientists believe that in the last 130 years or so the Earth has warmed by about 1.4 Fahrenheit degrees. That figure is not so precisely measured as some would have us believe, but it’s probably the case that some warming has occurred. Nye’s argument, if I am interpreting it correctly, was that this warming had to be caused by human activity since natural changes in climate cannot occur within periods as short as a few decades or even centuries.

Nye: Instead of happening at time scales of millions of years or let’s say 15,000 years, it’s happening on a time scale of decades and now years.

Carlson: What would the climate look like right now without human activity.

Nye: It would have looked like it did in 1750.

Oh? Natural forces couldn’t have changed the climate since 1750? I am not a climate scientist, but I’ve read enough to know that earth’s climate can in fact change significantly in a matter of centuries or even decades. For instance, as a result of the Little Ice Age, the climate was considerably colder in the year 1400 than it had been in 1200. And this is just one of many instances of rapid change in earth’s climate. Evidence suggests that the average temperature can change several degrees in just a single century. The observed increase of 1.4 degrees over the last 130 years therefore lies well within the possible bounds of natural fluctuation.

Evidence also suggests that the current warming trend began at least as early as 1800, when humans could not yet have been responsible. Nye is therefore wrong about the climate remaining naturally unchanged since 1750. Also, significant temperature fluctuations have been documented occurring over just a few decades, during periods when humans can have had little or no impact. Notwithstanding Nye’s assertions, natural temperature fluctuation can certainly occur over a few decades.

Judith Curry, who happens to be a real climate scientist, provided a good summary of the evidence in her December 2015 testimony before Congress. Contra Nye, Dr. Curry points out that the relative influence of humans versus natural factors remains unsettled.

Anthropogenic climate change is a theory in which the basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain owing to feedback processes. Scientists agree that surface temperatures have increased overall since 1880, humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have a warming effect on the planet. However there is considerable disagreement about the most consequential issues: whether the warming has been dominated by human causes versus natural variability, how much the planet will warm in the 21st century, and whether warming is ‘dangerous’. [Emphasis added.]

As Dr. Curry notes, the fluctuations in temperature over the 20th century cannot easily be explained by human influence alone.

If the warming since 1950 was caused by humans, what caused the warming during the period 1910 –1945? The period 1910-1945 comprises over 40% of the warming since 1900, but is associated with only 10% of the carbon dioxide increase since 1900. Clearly, human emissions of greenhouse gases played little role in causing this early warming. The mid-century period of slight cooling from 1945 to 1975 –referred to as the ‘grand hiatus’, also has not been satisfactorily explained.

The role of natural forces is also reflected in the fact that warming has been occurring since at least 1800.

Apart from these unexplained variations in 20th century temperatures, there is evidence that the global climate has been warming overall for the past 200 years, or even longer. While historical data becomes increasingly sparse in the 19th century, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project has assembled the available temperature data over land, back to 1750:

The Berkeley Earth analysis shows a warming trend back to 1800, with considerable variability around the turn of the 19th century. Some of this variability around the turn of the 19th century can be attributed to large volcanic eruptions; this was also the time of the Dalton solar activity minimum (1791-1825). Paleoclimate reconstructions of Northern Hemisphere climate–such as from tree rings and boreholes–indicate that overall warming may have occurred for the past 300-400 years. Humans contributed little if anything to this early global warming.

But according to Nye, this “early global warming” never happened.

Part of me thinks that Nye should never be allowed on TV to talk about science, but another part of me thinks he should talk about climate as much as possible in order to more fully discredit climate fearmongering.

Like I Said, Fat is Good


Eating fatty foods such as red meat, cheese and butter could actually be good for your health, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Ireland found that overweight middle-aged men who switched to a diet high in natural saturated fats and low in carbohydrates grew slimmer and healthier.

The diet also led to a reduction in blood pressure and glucose levels, which are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Professor Sherif Sultan, a heart specialist, said: “We urgently need to overturn current dietary guidelines.”

“People should not be eating high carbohydrate diets as they have been told over the past decade.”

The past decade? Dude, it has been four decades.

Settled Science: Right-Wingers are Hotter

A recent study published in the Journal of Public Economics, a pretty prestigious journal, finds that rightist politicians are better looking.

[R]esearchers showed respondents photographs of political candidates in Finnish municipal and parliamentary elections, members of the European Parliament, U.S. candidates for Senate and governor, and candidates for Australia’s House of Representatives. They asked participants to rate the photographs on a five-point scale. The results suggested that politicians on the right are more beautiful on all three continents.

This isn’t the first study to find that conservatives are more attractive. A few years ago, a UCLA study found a similar result. At least the result held for female politicians, but not male.

They started the project by feeding portraits of 434 members of the 111th House of Representatives into a computer modeling program used by researchers in their field. Loaded with a database of hundreds of scans of faces of men and women, the FaceGen Modeler allows researchers to measure how much the details of any one face approach the average for either gender.

The model compared each representative’s face to the norm on more than 100 subtle dimensions, including the shape of the jaw, the location of eyebrows, the placement of cheek bones, the shape of eyes, the contour of the forehead, the fullness of the lips and the distance between such features as the bottom of the nose and the top of the lip. Armed with these dimensions, the researchers were able to arrive at an amalgamated score assessing the extent to which the face exhibited characteristics common to men or to women. Theoretical values ranged from -40 (highly male-typed) to +40 (highly female-typed).

“We weren’t looking at hairstyle, jewelry or whether a person was wearing make up or not,” Carpinella said. “We wanted to get an objective measure of how masculine or feminine a face is, based on a scientifically derived average for male or female appearance.”

In addition to party affiliation, the researchers took into account each politician’s DW–NOMINATE score, a scale developed by political scientists that uses voting records to determine how conservative or liberal a lawmaker is.


[A] telling difference emerged among female politicians. The faces of Republican women rated, on average, twice as sex-typical — or feminine — as those of Democratic women.

The authors of the J. of Public Econ. piece offered some possible explanations for their results. As is the wont of economists, they looked to income.

Numerous studies have shown that good-looking people are likely to earn more, and that people who earn more are typically more opposed to redistributive policies, like the progressive taxes and welfare programs favored by the left.

I rather doubt that income explains very much of this phenomenon. Looks do correlate with income, but higher income people, while more fiscally conservative, tend to be more socially liberal. A majority of high income households–those above about $150,000 or $200,000–vote Democrat. The authors’ income explanation is purely speculative, and I doubt the facts would support it. The authors do, however, mention another explanation that seems more plausible–that people’s looks determine their ideology.

[G]ood-looking people are often treated better than others, and thus see the world as a more just place. Past studies have found that the more attractive people believe themselves to be, the lower their preference for egalitarianism, a value typically associated with the political left.

So people who are not good looking will gravitate to the political left. This interpretation was even endorsed by liberal blogress Lindy West, in response to the UCLA study.

American conservatism is profoundly tied up with the old-fashioned gender paradigm in which husbands are active providers and women are passive nurturers. In that paradigm, a woman’s job—the core of her femininity—is to make herself as pretty as possible…

I can imagine that liberalism actively attracts people who are shut out of that old-timey paradigm, because once you find yourself outside of it, it’s easier to call bullshit on the whole thing. The women who can’t “pass” for hot are forced to consider why. Maybe this is far-fetched, but I feel like people who feel less welcomed by the system are more likely to question the system.

People who are not good looking are more likely to end up as romantic failures. Having lost according to the rules of the game, they endorse a politics that seeks to change the rules by undermining social norms, mores, standards, and institutions. Sometimes you really can tell a book by its cover.

Biggest News of 2016: Death of the Cholesterol Theory?

Television news the last couple of days has been showing ‘year in review’ montages. These montages seem to focus almost exclusively on three things: the presidential election, terrorism, and celebrity deaths. While the presidential election was pretty remarkable, I want to argue that perhaps the most significant development of 2016 was the mainstreaming of skepticism regarding the lipid hypothesis: the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease.

The lipid hypothesis has been dominant for 60 years, and has profoundly influenced modern medicine and the American diet. It’s really hard to overstate its impact. As a response to the fear of fat, the food industry has developed a ‘low-fat’ or ‘non-fat’ version of seemingly every traditional food product: cookies, ice cream, yogurt–you name it. For a couple of generations now, everybody has been avoiding fat and/or taking statins to reduce cholesterol. After my uncle had by-pass surgery, he spent the last 20 years of his life scrupulously avoiding saturated fat. He even got the chef at his favorite restaurant to remove the chicken skin before cooking (even though every chef in the world knows that chicken is properly cooked in the skin and on the bone). Just before Christmas I found myself in a supermarket in Massachusetts where I overheard two elderly ladies discussing how drinking eggnog must be particularly unhealthy. “I’m OK,” said one of them, “as long as I take my cholesterol pill.” Statins have indeed become the most profitable drug in history.

And yet, the lipid hypothesis never was supported by very much scientific evidence, and the best and most recent evidence refutes it. The Massachusetts lady with the cholesterol pill is operating on multiple levels of delusion. There is in fact little or no connection between diet and serum cholesterol. It’s not like the cholesterol in the eggnog goes straight to your bloodstream; the body itself produces and regulates cholesterol. Second, the best and latest evidence contradicts the idea that high cholesterol causes heart disease. Patients with heart problems admitted to hospitals do not, on average, have cholesterol levels higher than the population as a whole. High cholesterol, in fact, is associated with longer lifespan.

If heart disease has a dietary culprit, it would seem not to be fat, but rather sugar and other refined carbohydrates.

In 2016, the truth about fat and cholesterol was finally reported by major publications, including the Boston Globe, New York Times, and Washington Post. Some of these stories appeared in previous years, but I believe I saw more this year than ever before. The word at last is getting out.

Maybe in another five years or so, your doctor will catch up with the Huffington Post and stop focusing on cholesterol numbers. Anyway, we can hope.

It’s really an amazing thing if you think about it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women worldwide. And yet the medical establishment has been completely wrong about it for 60 years. Because they cured so many other diseases, everybody believed they must be right about heart disease too. But they were wrong, and they issued dietary advice that was particularly harmful. They told us to substitute toxic transfats for healthy butter.

Over two generations, how many people died prematurely by trying to follow the awful dietary recommendations, or by putting their faith in statins? Millions? The lipid hypothesis might be the second most deadly idea after collectivized agriculture.

Reminder: Nutritionists are Quacks

Writing in the Boston Globe, Barbara Moran has a pretty good piece summarizing how bad has been conventional dietary advice over the past several decades. Nutritionists and supposed experts told us with great confidence that low-fat was the way to go. In response, the food industry created a plethora of low-fat versions of traditionally fatty products: cookies, ice cream, yogurt, etc. But the science was not so settled as they led us to believe. As Americans ate less fat, they got fatter.

The problem is that a low fat product or diet almost inevitably replaces the fat with more carbohydrates, which causes the body to produce insulin. And insulin induces the body to store fat.

We digest simple sugars and refined carbohydrates (white rice, pasta, and bread) very quickly, causing elevated blood sugar. So our bodies tell the pancreas to release insulin, which lets our cells remove the extra sugar from the bloodstream. It’s a beautiful, elegant system, until we throw it off by eating three bowls of Froot Loops and spiking our insulin into the sky.

“Insulin is the Miracle-Gro for your fat cells,” says David Ludwig, a professor of nutrition at Harvard’s public health school and director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital. “When we eat foods that raise insulin too much,” he says, “it programs the fat cells to store more than their fair share of those incoming calories.” The result: hunger and more eating. “High-fat foods like olive oil, nuts, avocado, full-fat yogurt have a lot of calories but they’re intensely satiating, in part because they don’t raise blood sugar or insulin very much,” says Ludwig. “So the incoming calories don’t get as easily stored into fat cells and are more available for the rest of the body.”

Scientists like Ludwig blame the anti-fat years, in part, for today’s obesity epidemic. “I argue that the low-fat diet was a massive public health mistake, which is causing ongoing harms because it continues to pervade public consciousness and national nutritional policy,” Ludwig says.

Indeed, low-fat dogma does continue to “pervade…national nutrition policy.” Check out the following government-sponsored stupidity.

The 2012 National School Lunch Nutrition Standards banned whole milk but allowed chocolate skim milk with its added sugar. The National Institutes of Health website lists fat-free creamy salad dressing and fat-free sour cream as “almost anytime” foods while sticking nuts and avocados in the “sometimes” food category, alongside sports drinks and ginger snaps.

Even Moran’s article, although it challenges the conventional wisdom, does not go far enough in its defense of fat. She seems to be under the impression that only plant-based fats like nuts and olive oil are healthy, and not animal fats. In fact, the latest research shows that animal fats are healthy, or at least not unhealthy. We reported previously, for instance, on studies showing that whole milk is actually healthier than low-fat or skim milk.

In any event, Moran’s article is at least a step in the right direction, and evidence that people’s thinking is starting to change. There’s still a long way to go, however, and entrenched interests to overcome. For instance, when one doctor in Australia tried to tell the public the truth about fat, professional dieticians tried to use the regulatory agency to shut him up.

DR GARY FETTKE: What I have been advocating for some years is cutting sugar down, particularly the refined sugars in the diet.

Over time that’s evolved to what I call low carb healthy fat living.

It’s really not high fat eating, it is eating lots of vegetables and lots of pasture-fed meat and the right amount of oil in the form of nuts, avocado, cheese, olive oil and fish.

NATALIE WHITING: He started calling for changes to the food served in the Launceston general hospital and then criticising a lack of action.

DR GARY FETTKE: I can promise that I tried going to these areas of the hospital saying, “Can we meet? Can we meet? Can we discuss?” And it just didn’t happen.

And so ultimately I tried to get louder and getting louder within the hospital wasn’t happening so I then started going to another forum which was out to the public.

NATALIE WHITING: According to Dr Fettke an anonymous complaint from a dietician at the hospital sparked an investigation by the Australian health practitioner regulation agency known as AHPRA.

Two-and-a-half years later the watchdog found he was working outside his scope of practice and was not qualified to give specific nutritional advice and he was ordered to stop talking about the low carbohydrate, high fat diet or LCHF.

DR GARY FETTKE: I have been contacted by many doctors. I know that the AMA has been contacted by many doctors as well as the Medical Protection Society. What does it mean?

You go to your cardiologist and he tells you what to eat. You go to a neurosurgeon, he tells you what to eat.

Gastroenterologist – and all of them by definition don’t have a major training in nutrition but they are all giving advice.

NATALIE WHITING: It wasn’t just advice to patients that worried AHPRA. A website and social media accounts he operated also came under scrutiny.
MELANIE MCGRICE, DIETICIAN: Doctors and other health care professionals play a very important role but when it comes to medical conditions and tailored dietary advice that is where people need to going and speaking to an accredited practising dietitian.

Yeah, Melanie, the problem is that ‘accredited practising dietitians’ like you are the same people who dished out wrongheaded advice for the last forty years. That’s why we need robust and free debate and not attempts to use the fallacious ‘argument from authority’ to shut people up.

At this point, I’m adding dieticians to my list of ‘credential experts’ whose advice is so systematically piss-poor that you’re better off pulling a Costanza and doing the opposite.

  • Dieticians/ Nutritionists
  • Chiropractors
  • Environmentalists
  • Marriage counselors
  • Paul Krugman

No credibility.


Are Health Organizations Bought Off by Big Soda?

We wrote previously about how the sugar industry, back in the 1960s, paid for research that denied the role of sugar in causing heart disease. That sort of thing is apparently still going on, since evidence suggests that the soft drink industry is paying health organizations to go easy on sugary drinks.

Under the guise of sweet charitable giving, soda makers are handing out millions to big name health organizations so that the groups stay quiet about health issues that threaten to slim down drink profits—not to mention Americans themselves—a new study suggests.

Between 2011 and 2015, Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo sponsored 96 national health organizations, including the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Society for Nutrition, researchers report in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. Meanwhile, lobbyists for the beverage makers successfully campaigned against nearly 20 proposed state and federal regulations aimed at protecting public health, such as improvements to nutrition labeling and soda taxes.

[I]n 2010, the charity Save the Children stunned colleagues and health professionals by abruptly dropping support for a soda tax—a policy the organization had been fiercely supporting as part of a campaign to combat childhood obesity. The turnabout occurred after the organization received more than $5 million from Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo, though the charity’s executives denied the connection.

Similarly, in 2012 and 2013, the NAACP, which runs a Coca-Cola-funded health program and has close ties to soda makers, firmly opposed Mayor Bloomberg’s soda portion size limit for New York City. The stance was in spite of the fact that African American’s in the city suffer higher than average rates of obesity.

Last year The New York Times uncovered financial links between Coca-Cola and the research group, Global Energy Balance Network, run out of the University of Colorado. The researchers willfully downplayed the role of sugary beverages in poor health and obesity and shifted focus to a need for more exercise. The group has since disbanded and Coca-Cola’s chief scientist stepped down following the revelation.

A few years ago, somebody fairly close to me died of heart disease. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that mourners make donations to the American Heart Association. I made the donation, but I didn’t feel entirely good about it, because I knew that the AHA basically downplays the role of sugar in heart disease. Instead, the AHA promotes the theory that heart disease is caused by consumption of saturated fat–the theory favored by the sugar and soft drink industries–even though that theory is increasingly contradicted by the latest scientific research.

I’ve often wondered by the American Heart Association so stubbornly remains focused on fat rather than sugar. Maybe the reason is that they’ve been bought off by Big Soda. Big Sugar and Big Soda do seem to have wielded quite a lot of power for many decades now.

[I]f you don’t get the President of the United States on that phone, you know what’s gonna happen to you?
You’re gonna have to answer to the Coca-Cola Company.