Title: 0270 - Sugar Industry’s Use of Dietitians to Influence Dental Professionals, 1974-1978


Ifunanya Okeke (Presenter)
University of California, San Francisco

Dorie Apollonio, University of California, San Francisco
Cristin Kearns, University of California, San Francisco


Objectives: In 1975, the U.S. Sugar Association (SA) created the Regional Nutritional Information Program (RNIP) with the goal of enlisting dietitians to spread positive messages about sugar and health. The objective of this study was to describe the RNIP, and determine its impact on dental professionals.

Methods: 304 internal SA documents from 1974 to 1978 related to operations, regulatory activities, and scientific research were reviewed for relevance to the RNIP. 59 documents were identified for further review and emerging themes were identified. Secondary sources were used to contextualize findings.

Results: The RNIP was an essential component of SA’s public relations campaign designed to portray the safety and benefits of sugar in a balanced diet. SA launched the RNIP in 1975 with one home economist that traveled to Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Texas and, New Mexico. In 1976, SA had hired dietitians in eight cities. The RNIP’s target audiences included universities, public schools, professional associations, and the media. SA’s dietitians hosted educational workshops, incorporated SA literature into libraries and curricula, monitored professional and consumer attitudes toward sugar, and made media appearances. By mid-1978, SA’s dietitians had traveled to 110 cities in 33 states and appeared on 251 TV and radio programs. SA’s dietitians interacted with dental professionals by documenting their attitudes toward sugar, influencing a professional conference to include pro-sugar speakers, developing a media program that minimized sugar’s role in tooth decay, and monitoring and criticizing dentist-researchers examining the high-sugar content of breakfast cereals.

Conclusions: SA used the RNIP to counter dentists’ anti-sugar messages at professional meetings and in the media with positive messages about sugar. The public health community should consider corporate relationships in the dietetic profession as potentially detrimental to oral health.

Student Presenter

Disclosure Statement:
The submitter must disclose the names of the organizations with which any author have a relationship, the nature of the relationship, and the clinical or research area involved. The following is submitted: NONE