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The sugar industry offers another version of the same problem.As we saw, Big Sugar contacted and funded researchers who were already convinced of the dangers of fat, but not sugar.
Holman and Bruner illustrate this point with a stark example.
Heart arrhythmias often precede heart attacks, so in the 1970s researchers began testing drugs intended to suppress arrhythmia. But while some researchers ran studies testing whether the drugs actually reduced mortality, others simply tested whether the drugs reduced arrhythmia.
There was no fraud involved in this technique, and the research described in the pamphlets was often not funded by or otherwise linked to the tobacco industry.
In this case, Big Tobacco did not need to influence scientists to influence beliefs about what the science showed.
Pharmaceutical companies funded scientists who had adopted this latter method much more than the former, allowing these scientists to run more studies and produce more data.
The result was a glut of papers from labs testing for arrhythmia suppression only—and finding that the drugs indeed worked to stop arrhythmia.
Representatives of industry are far more sophisticated, using subtle techniques that can shift scientific consensus and which are much more difficult to detect.
Even more pernicious is when industrial and political groups shape the body of evidence that is produced and published.
As Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway report in their 2010 book Merchants of Doubt, in the 1950s, a research committee funded by Big Tobacco distributed bimonthly pamphlets selectively reporting on studies that showed no link between tobacco and cancer.
These were sent to hundreds of thousands of journalists, doctors, and policymakers.