Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Oct 14 2015

The Revolving Door: From CSPI to The Sugar Association?

Politico Morning Agriculture (behind a firewall, unfortunately) reported this morning that Bruce Silverglade has filed a letter on behalf of The Sugar Association objecting to the FDA’s proposal to put Added Sugars on food labels.

The objection is on procedural grounds.  The Sugar Association opposes the FDA’s labeling proposal and wants the agency to allow more time for public comment (and, of course, additional time for lobbying against the measure).

Silverglade is now an attorney at Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz.  He joined this firm after resigning from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), where he had worked as director of legal affairs for more than 25 years.

CSPI has advocated for policies to reduce sugar intake for many years, and favors putting Added Sugars on labels (as I explained in a previous post).

The “Revolving Door”—-exchange of positions between the food industry and government—often raises uncomfortable questions.

This example, a move from a food advocacy group to The Sugar Association, is unusual.  And sad.

Oct 13 2015

Salt warning labels coming to New York City, December 1

Last month, the New York City Board of Health voted to require chain restaurants to publish warnings when menu items contain more than the recommended daily limit for sodium, thus taking the lead on regulating the amount of salt in foods.

Salt, says the city health department, is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease but also a leading driver of health disparities: blood pressure levels are higher in African-American populations.

The rule, which takes effect December 1, says that chains with 15 or more locations in New York City must display a warning symbol — a salt shaker inside a triangle — if the item has more than 2,300 milligrams of salt.

The policy does not restrict choice or limit how much sodium can be in food.

The New York State Restaurant Association (NRA) called the new rule “burdensome.”

It issued a statement:

This is just the latest in a long litany of superfluous hoops that restaurants here in New York must jump through…Every one of these cumbersome new laws makes it tougher and tougher for restaurants to find success.

The health department estimates the regulation will apply to 10 percent of all menu items.  Some examplesof affected products (For the record, 40% of salt is sodium; for grams of salt multiply by 2.5):

  • Panera Bread Smokehouse Turkey Panini (2,590 mg),                  “
  • TGI Friday’s sesame jack chicken strips (2,700 mg)
  • Regular-size Applebee’s Grilled Shrimp ‘n Spinach Salad (2,990 mg)
  • Subway footlong spicy Italian sub (2,980 mg)
  • Red Robin monster-size salted caramel milkshake (3,400 mg)

But the Salt Institute, a salt producers’ trade group, called the policy “misguided”:

This is another example of the government creating policy based on outdated, incorrect sodium guidelines that have been refuted by ten years of research. Research shows Americans already eat within the safe range of sodium consumption and population-wide sodium reduction strategies are unnecessary and could be harmful,” said Lori Roman, President of the Salt Institute.

The consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest said the proposed warnings “will prompt restaurants to use less salt and will help consumers reduce their risk of stroke or heart attack.”

This one will be interesting to watch.  Will people pay attention?  Will chain restaurants take steps to reduce sodium levels?  Will hypertension levels decline?  I hope researchers are hard at work collecting baseline data.

Oct 12 2015

Independently funded study by Industry-funded authors finds sugary drinks to increase the risk of hypertension. The score: 70:6.

Do sugar-sweetened beverages increase the risk of high blood pressure?

Yes, says this study, which was conducted by investigators who accept research funding from Coca-Cola and the Calorie Control Council (a trade association for companies that make or use artificial sweeteners).  But the study itself was funded by independent government agencies or health associations in Canada.

I’m counting it in the category of studies with results unfavorable to the food industry sponsors.

This brings the score to 70 industry-funded studies since mid-March with results favorable to the sponsor, to 6 with unfavorable results.

Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and incident hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohortsViranda H Jayalath, Russell J de Souza, Vanessa Ha, Arash Mirrahimi, Sonia Blanco-Mejia, Marco Di Buono, Alexandra L Jenkins, Lawrence A Leiter, Thomas MS Wolever, Joseph Beyene, Cyril WC Kendall, David JA Jenkins, and John L Sievenpiper.  Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 102:914-921 doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.107243.

  • Conclusions: SSBs were associated with a modest risk of developing hypertension in 6 cohorts. There is a need for high-quality randomized trials to assess the role of SSBs in the development of hypertension and its complications.
  • Funding: “The Canadian Institutes of Health Research…through the Canada-wide Human Nutrition Trialists’ Network and by the Diet, Digestive Tract, and Disease (3D) Centre, which is funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.  The Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Ontario Research Fund provided the infrastructure for the conduct of this project.”  Some of the investigators also received funds from Canadian government agencies or health associations.
  • Authors’ funding disclosures: RJdS has received research support from the Calorie Control Council and the Coca-Cola Company…ALJ is a part owner, vice president, and director of research of Glycemic Index Laboratories, Toronto, Canada….JB has received research support from the Calorie Control Council and The Coca-Cola Company…CWCK has received research support from the Calorie Control Council, the Coca-Cola Company (investigator initiated, unrestricted grant), Hain Celestial, Kellogg, Kraft, Loblaw Companies Ltd., Solae, and Unilever…DJAJ has received research grants from Loblaw Companies Ltd., Unilever, the Coca-Cola Company… JLS has received research support from the Calorie Control Council and the Coca-Cola Company…travel funding, speaker fees, or honoraria from the Calorie Control Council, the Canadian Sugar Institute, World Sugar Research Organization, White Wave Foods, Abbott Laboratories, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, The Coca-Cola Company, and the Corn Refiners Association….

Comment

This is an exception that proves the rule.  In this study, a group of investigators, some—but not all— of whom typically receive funding from food companies, participated in a study funded by Canadian government and health agencies.

One possible explanation is that when investigators typically funded by soda companies are funded independently,  they design and conduct independent research.

If nothing else, this study is evidence for the need for and value of independent funding of nutrition research.

Oct 9 2015

Weekend reading: Sustainable farmers

Forrest Pritchard.  Growing tomorrow: A Farm-to-Table Journey in Photos and Recipes.  The Experiment, 2015.

I did a blurb for this book:

Who says that nobody is going into farming these days or that you can’t make a living growing foods organically and sustainably?  Certainly not the 18 pioneers described in this lovely, inspiring book.  Forrest Pritchard chose farmers of diverse crops—mushrooms, honey, lobsters, avocados, grain, beef, and more—and tells the personal stories of how they created lives of deep productivity and satisfaction.  Any aspiring farmer or consumer of freshly farmed products will get great pleasure from reading this book and admiring its photos.

Oct 8 2015

Five more industry-funded studies with expected results. Score 70:5

A reminder that since mid-March I’ve been collecting studies funding by food companies.  These greatly tend to produce results favorable to the sponsor’s interests.  Today’s group makes 70.  I have an ongoing call out for sponsored studies that don’t.  So far I’ve found 5 .  If you run across either kind, please send.

Breakfasts Higher in Protein Increase Postprandial Energy Expenditure, Increase Fat Oxidation, and Reduce Hunger in Overweight Children from 8 to 12 Years of Age. Jamie I Baum, Michelle Gray, and Ashley Binns.  J Nutr 2015;145:2229–35.

  • Conclusion: This study indicates that breakfast macronutrient composition affects postprandial responses in both NW [normal weight] and OW [overweight] children. A PRO [high protein breakfast] increases postprandial EE [energy expenditure] and fat oxidation, reduces hunger, and increases satiety when compared with a carbohydrate-based breakfast.
  • Funding: Supported by a grant from the Egg Nutrition Center/American Egg Board, Chicago, IL.
  • Added note: this one is a repeat of one posted earlier.

Dietary Whey and Casein Differentially Affect Energy Balance, Gut Hormones, Glucose Metabolism, and Taste Preference in Diet-Induced Obese RatsAdel Pezeshki, Andrew Fahim, and Prasanth K Chelikani. J. Nutr. 2015; 145:2236-2244 doi:10.3945/jn.115.213843

  • Conclusion: Together, these data demonstrate that in obese rats, whey, casein, and their combination improve energy balance through differential effects on food intake, taste preference, energy expenditure, glucose tolerance, and gut hormone secretion.
  • Funding: Supported by operating grants from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency, Alberta Innovates Bio-Solutions, Alberta Milk…Whey protein isolate for this study was donated by Agropur Dairy Cooperative (Canada).

Consumption of Yogurt, Low-Fat Milk, and Other Low-Fat Dairy Products Is Associated with Lower Risk of Metabolic Syndrome Incidence in an Elderly Mediterranean PopulationNancy Babio, Nerea Becerra-Tomás, Miguel Ángel Martínez-González, Dolores Corella, Ramon Estruch, Emilio Ros, Carmen Sayón-Orea, Montserrat Fitó, Lluís Serra-Majem, Fernando Arós, Rosa M Lamuela-Raventós, José Lapetra, Enrique Gómez-Gracia, Miguel Fiol, Andrés Díaz-López, José V Sorlí, J Alfredo Martínez, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, on behalf of the PREDIMED Investigators.  J. Nutr. 2015; 145:2308-2316 doi:10.3945/jn.115.214593

  • Conclusions: Higher consumption of low-fat dairy products, yogurt (total, low-fat, and whole-fat yogurt) and low-fat milk was associated with a reduced risk of MetS [metabolic syndrome] in individuals at high cardiovascular disease risk from a Mediterranean population. Conversely, higher consumption of cheese was related to a higher risk of MetS.
  • Funding: This study was funded in part by the Spanish Ministry of Health…Thematic Network…the European Regional Development Fund, and the Catalan Nutrition Center of the Institute of Catalan Studies.
  • Author disclosures: N Babio received consulting fees from Danone. R Estruch served on the board of, and received lecture fees from, the Research Foundation on Wine and Nutrition…E Ros served on the board of, and received travel support and grant support through his institution from the California Walnut Commission; served on the board of the Flora Foundation (Unilever)… L Serra-Majem is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board and received consulting fees and grant support from the European Hydratation Institute, received lecture fees from the International Nut Council, and received travel support from Nestle. F Arós received payment for the development of educational presentations from Menarini and Astra Zeneca. RM Lamuela-Raventós serves on the board of, and received lecture fees from, the Research Foundation on Wine and Nutrition; received lecture fees from Cerveceros de España; and received lecture fees and travel support from PepsiCo. J Salas-Salvadó served on the board of, and received grant support through his institution from the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council; received consulting fees from Danone; and received grant support through his institution from Eroski and Nestlé. N Becerra-Tomás, MÁ Martínez-González, D Corella, C Sayón-Orea, M Fitó, J Lapetra, E Gómez-Gracia, M Fiol, A Díaz-López, JV Sorlí, and JA Martínez, no conflicts of interest.
  • Comment: This study was funded by independent agencies but the authors report many financial connections to food companies.

Type and amount of dietary protein in the treatment of metabolic syndrome: a randomized controlled trial.  Alison M Hill, Kristina A Harris Jackson, Michael A Roussell, Sheila G West, and Penny M Kris-Etherton.  Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 102:757-770 doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.104026

  • Conclusions: Weight loss was the primary modifier of MetS [metabolic syndrome] resolution in our study population regardless of protein source or amount. Our findings demonstrate that heart-healthy weight-loss dietary patterns that emphasize either animal or plant protein improve MetS criteria similarly.
  • Funding: Supported by The Beef Checkoff and the General Clinical Research Center, The Pennsylvania State University.
  • Comment: The point of this study was to demonstrate that animal protein is not harmful.

Oral Vitamin D Supplements Increase Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D in Postmenopausal Women and Reduce Bone Calcium Flux Measured by 41Ca Skeletal LabelingAndreas Schild, Isabelle Herter-Aeberli, Karin Fattinger, Sarah Anderegg, Tim Schulze-König, Christof Vockenhuber, Hans-Arno Synal, Heike Bischoff-Ferrari, Peter Weber, Arnold von Eckardstein, and Michael B Zimmermann.  J. Nutr. 2015; 145:2333-2340 doi:10.3945/jn.115.215004

  • Conclusion: In healthy postmenopausal women, increasing serum 25(OH)D primarily affects calcium transfer from the central compartment to a fast exchanging compartment…A serum 25(OH)D concentration of ∼40 μg/L achieves ∼90% of the expected maximal effect on this transfer rate.
  • Funding: This study was supported by DSM Nutritional Products Ltd. and the ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
  • Author disclosures: P Weber is employed by DSM Nutritional Products.
  • Comment: Although this study addresses a basic research question, its results favor the use of vitamin D supplements and, therefore, the interests of this supplement company.
Oct 7 2015

The bizarre saga of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines: Continued

Two events yesterday:

#1.  USDA and HHS announce that sustainability will not be part of the Dietary Guidelines.

This year, we will release the 2015 edition, and though the guidelines have yet to be finalized, we know they will be similar in many key respects to those of past years. Fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats and other proteins, and limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium remain the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.

…In terms of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs), we will remain within the scope of our mandate in the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act (NNMRRA), which is to provide “nutritional and dietary information and guidelines”… “based on the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge.”  The final 2015 Guidelines are still being drafted, but because this is a matter of scope, we do not believe that the 2015 DGAs are the appropriate vehicle for this important policy conversation about sustainability.

OK, but see Michele Simon’s analysis of the legal issues related to sustainability in the guidelines, and My Plate My Planet’s analysis of the comments filed on the sustainability question.

As my analysis shows, the USDA and HHS would be well within its legal authority to include sustainability. In summary:

    • A plain reading of the statute does not preclude sustainability;
    • The Congressional intent was to further a broad agenda on health;
    • Previous DGA versions included issues beyond “nutrition and diet”.

And also see Kathleen Merrigan et al’s argument in favor of sustainable dietary guidelines in Science Magazine.

So this is about politics, not science.

#2.  A coalition of critics of the Dietary Guidelines is attempting to block their release.

Yesterday’s Hagstrom Report and, later, Politico (both behind paywalls) reported that this group is calling on  USDA and HHS to turn over the guidelines to a committee of the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board for reexamination before releasing them to the public.

The issues?  The meat and beverage recommendations.

The group is funded by philanthropists Laura and John D. Arnold, who fund Nina Teicholz’s work.

Teicholz is on the board of the group as is Cheryl Achterberg, dean of the Ohio State University College of Education, and John Billings, who directs the Wagner School’s Health Policy and Management Program at NYU (why they agreed to do this is beyond me).

Hagstrom notes that coordinating support is coming from Beth Johnson, a former undersecretary for food safety at USDA who has her own consulting firm with clients apparently including the National Restaurant Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Other members of the advisory board include several scientists who do research funded by food companies.

The Coalition’s website is here.

This morning’s Politico Pro Agriculture has a long piece on the funding behind the coalition.

In the lead up to congressional hearings on the proposed 2015 dietary guidelines, the Arnolds are spending an initial $200,000 to communicate that critique and to advocate for changes that they say would improve the process. They have funded the new political action group, called The Nutrition Coalition, whose well-placed lobbyists have helped Teicholz score face-to-face meetings with top officials in Congress and the White House to push for an independent review of the guideline process. The team helped persuade lawmakers to insert language in the fiscal 2016 House agriculture spending bill to direct the National Academy of Medicine to conduct such a review.

Really? Eating fruits and vegetables and not overeating calories requires this level of lobbying?

This too is about politics.

The mind boggles.

Addition

The Hagstrom Report is keeping track of the testimony at today’s congressional hearing on the guidelines.

Oct 6 2015

Two rare industry-funded studies with results that must have disappointed the funders

Consumption of Honey, Sucrose, and High-Fructose Corn Syrup Produces Similar Metabolic Effects in Glucose-Tolerant and -Intolerant Individuals.  Susan K Raatz, LuAnn K Johnson, and Matthew J Picklo.  J. Nutr. 2015; 145:2265-2272 doi:10.3945/jn.115.218016 

  • Conclusions: Daily intake of 50 g carbohydrate from honey, sucrose, or HFCS55 for 14 d resulted in similar effects on measures of glycemia, lipid metabolism, and inflammation. All 3 increased TG [triglyceride] concentrations in both GT [glucose tolerant] and IGT [glucose intolerant] individuals and elevated glycemic and inflammatory responses in the latter.
  • Funding: Supported by a grant from the National Honey Board and by the USDA Agricultural Research Service.
  • Comment.  The authors hypothesized that honey would result in improved glycemia and insulin sensitivity compared with sucrose and HFCS.  But they found that their “data do not support the contention that the consumption of honey vs. HFCS or sucrose provides an added health benefit for maintenance of glucose homeostasis and other cardiometabolic outcomes because all 3 sugars evaluated exerted similar metabolic effects.”

Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and incident hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohortsViranda H Jayalath, Russell J de Souza, Vanessa Ha, Arash Mirrahimi, Sonia Blanco-Mejia, Marco Di Buono, Alexandra L Jenkins, Lawrence A Leiter, Thomas MS Wolever, Joseph Beyene, Cyril WC Kendall, David JA Jenkins, and John L Sievenpiper.  Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 102:914-921 doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.107243.

  • Conclusions: SSBs were associated with a modest risk of developing hypertension in 6 cohorts. There is a need for high-quality randomized trials to assess the role of SSBs in the development of hypertension and its complications.
  • Funding: “The Canadian Institutes of Health Research…through the Canada-wide Human Nutrition Trialists’ Network and by the Diet, Digestive Tract, and Disease (3D) Centre, which is funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.  The Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Ontario Research Fund provided the infrastructure for the conduct of this project.”  Some of the investigators also received funds from other Canadian government agencies or health associations.  This, therefore is actually an independently funded study.
  • Authors’ funding disclosures: RJdS has received research support from the Calorie Control Council and the Coca-Cola Company…ALJ is a part owner, vice president, and director of research of Glycemic Index Laboratories, Toronto, Canada….JB has received research support from the Calorie Control Council and The Coca-Cola Company…CWCK has received research support from the Calorie Control Council, the Coca-Cola Company (investigator initiated, unrestricted grant), Hain Celestial, Kellogg, Kraft, Loblaw Companies Ltd., Solae, and Unilever…DJAJ has received research grants from Loblaw Companies Ltd., Unilever, the Coca-Cola Company… JLS has received research support from the Calorie Control Council and the Coca-Cola Company…travel funding, speaker fees, or honoraria from the Calorie Control Council, the Canadian Sugar Institute, World Sugar Research Organization, White Wave Foods, Abbott Laboratories, Dairy Farmers of Canada, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, The Coca-Cola Company, and the Corn Refiners Association….
  • Comment: In this study, a group of investigators, some—but not all— of whom typically receive funding from food companies, participated in a study funded by Canadian government and health agencies.  If nothing else, this study is evidence for the importance of independent funding of nutrition research.

The score, for those of you following this saga, is now 65 studies with results favoring the sponsor to 5 with unfavorable results.  But I will soon be posting another 5 of the former kind.

Oct 5 2015

Soda Politics is published—today!

Today is the official publication date for Soda Politics.  This means it should now be available in bookstores and open for review and comment.  Cover for<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> Soda Politics<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />

For more information, see the book page for it on this site.  There you will find the blurbs, reviews, media interviews, and the list of media resources—videos, audios, music, movies, commercials, and anti-commercials—that I ran across while working on the book.

Enjoy!

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