by Marion Nestle

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Sep 15 2015

Big Soda vs. Public Health: the US Conference on Mayors

There seems to be no end to such stories, many of which I cover in Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning)officially out October 1 but being shipped right now.

Here’s one I didn’t cover.

2008: The U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) passed a resolution supporting “increased resources for cities to help combat obesity and fund obesity prevention, including consideration of revenues from the major leading contributors of the nation’s obesity epidemic, including calorically sweetened beverages, fast food, and high calorie snacks.”  Translation: taxes

2010: USCM posted an article in its online newspaper about mayors considering soda taxes.

2011: The American Beverage Association (ABA) became a member of the USCM’s Business Council, and partnered with the group to start a $3 million childhood obesity prevention program.  Would this aim to reduce intake of sugary beverages?  Nope.

Instead, the program focused on:

  • Promoting physical activity
  • Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption

2015:  The winning projects were:

  • Jacksonville, FL, $150,000 for a youth initiative to make fresh fruits and vegetables available at a cheaper cost, and to promote physical activity.
  • Seattle, WA, $25,000 to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among at-risk kids, through farm-to-table initiatives.

2015: Here’s what Scientific American says about all this (I’m quoted).

There is no mention in the application of decreasing consumption of calorically sweetened beverages, fast food, or high calorie snacks, which are all specifically cited in the 2008 USCM resolution as contributors to the nation’s obesity epidemic…The beverage industry seems to be obsessed with physical activity, as evident from the recent spate of stories about Coca-Cola funding studies that point the blame for obesity at caloric expenditure, rather than caloric intake. The science overwhelmingly does not support this.

Sep 14 2015

Five more industry-funded studies with expected results. The score: 55:3

Here’s the latest collection of 5 studies funded by food companies or trade associations, all with results that favor the sponsor’s interests.  I’ve just reviewed them and found a couple of duplicates, so this is a corrected score.  The correct score is 55 industry-funded studies with positive results vs. 3 with results unfavorable to industry—since mid-March.

I’m particularly interested in the unfavorable category.  If you run across any, please send.

Jejunal Casein Feeding Is Followed by More Rapid Protein Digestion and Amino Acid Absorption When Compared with Gastric Feeding in Healthy Young Men. Joanna Luttikhold, Klaske van Norren, Nikki Buijs, Marjolein Ankersmit, Annemieke C Heijboer, Jeannette Gootjes, Herman Rijna, Paul AM van Leeuwen, and Luc JC van Loon. J. Nutr. 2015; 145:2033-2038 doi:10.3945/jn.115.211615.

  • Conclusions: Jejunal feeding of intact casein is followed by more rapid protein digestion and AA absorption when compared with gastric feeding in healthy young men. The greater postprandial increase in circulating EAA concentrations may allow a more robust increase in muscle protein synthesis rate after jejunal vs. gastric casein feeding.
  • Funding: Supported by Nutricia Research, Utrecht, Netherlands. J Luttikhold was employed by Nutricia Research; K van Norren is a guest employee of Nutricia Research; and LJC van Loon has served as a consultant for Nutricia Research.  [Note: Nutricia Research is a subsidiary of Danone].

Higher Total Protein Intake and Change in Total Protein Intake Affect Body Composition but Not Metabolic Syndrome Indexes in Middle-Aged Overweight and Obese Adults Who Perform Resistance and Aerobic Exercise for 36 Weeks. Wayne W Campbell, Jung Eun Kim, Akua F Amankwaah, Susannah L Gordon, and Eileen M Weinheimer-Haus. J. Nutr. 2015; 145:2076-2083 doi:10.3945/jn.115.213595.

  • Conclusions: In conjunction with exercise training, higher TPro [total protein] promoted positive changes in BC [body composition] but not in MetS [metabolic syndrome] indexes in overweight and obese middle-aged adults. Changes in TPro from before to during the intervention also influenced BC responses and should be considered in future research when different TPro is achieved via diet or supplements.
  • Funding:  Supported by the US Whey Protein Research Consortium (to WWC) among others.  WW Campbell was a member of the National Dairy Council Whey Protein Advisory Panel while the research was being conducted.

Intense Sweeteners, Appetite for the Sweet Taste, and Relationship to Weight ManagementFrance Bellisle.  Current Obesity Reports March 2015, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 106-110 10.1007/s13679-014-0133-8

  • Conclusion: While many of the existing studies cannot identify any causal links between use of LES [artificial, low-energy sweeteners] and appetite for sweetness, randomized trials in children and adults suggest that use of LES tends to reduce rather than increase the intake of sugar-containing foods and to facilitate, rather than impair, weight loss.
  • Conflict: Parts of [this study] are extracted from a non-published document for which the author received an honorarium from the International Sweeteners Association (ISA).  France Bellisle is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for General Mills and has received travel reimbursement and honoraria for contributions in scientific congresses from Mondelez, ISA, and General Mills.

Impact of cocoa flavanol intake on age-dependent vascular stiffness in healthy men: a randomized, controlled, double-masked trial.  Christian Heiss & Roberto Sansone & Hakima Karimi & Moritz Krabbe & Dominik Schuler & Ana Rodriguez-Mateos & Thomas Kraemer & Miriam Margherita Cortese-Krott & Gunter G. C. Kuhnle & Jeremy P. E. Spencer & Hagen Schroeter & Marc W. Merx & Malte Kelm & for the FLAVIOLA Consortium, European Union 7th Framework Program.  AGE (2015) 37: 56 DOI 10.1007/s11357-015-9794-9

  • Conclusion: CF [cocoa flavanol] intake reverses age-related burden of cardiovascular risk in healthy elderly, highlighting the potential of dietary flavanols to maintain cardiovascular health.
  • Funding: …Additional funding was provided by an unrestricted grant by MARS, Inc…MARS, Inc. provided the standardized test drinks used in this investigation. HS is employed by MARS, Inc., a member of the FLAVIOLA research consortium and a company engaged in flavanol research and flavanol-related commercial activities.

Cocoa flavanol intake improves endothelial function and Framingham Risk Score in healthy men and women: a randomised, controlled, double-masked trial: the Flaviola Health StudyRoberto Sansone, Ana Rodriguez-Mateos , Jan Heuel, David Falk, Dominik Schuler, Rabea Wagstaff, Gunter G. C. Kuhnle, Jeremy P. E. Spencer, Hagen Schroeter, Marc W. Merx, Malte Kelm and Christian Heiss for the Flaviola Consortium, European Union 7th Framework Program.  British Journal of Nutrition, September 9, 2015. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002822.

  • Conclusion: In healthy individuals, regular CF [cocoa flavanol] intake improved accredited cardiovascular surrogates of cardiovascular risk, demonstrating that dietary flavanols have the potential to maintain cardiovascular health even in low-risk subjects.
  • Funding: Additional funding was provided…through an unrestricted grant by MARS Inc. MARS Inc. also provided the standardised test drinks used in this investigation… H. S. provided test drinks on behalf of Mars Inc… H. S. is employed by MARS Inc., a member of the Flaviola research consortium and a company engaged in flavanol research and flavanol-related commercial activities. [The conflict statement also discloses that MARS employee H.S. shared responsibility for designing the study, writing the paper, and approving the final content].
  • Comment: Lest the implicit (but never stated directly) “eat more chocolate” message of these studies be missed, Mars sent out a press release: “Cocoa flavanols lower blood pressure and increase blood vessel function in healthy people.”
Sep 11 2015

Soda Politics: The blurbs!

On Fridays, I often post books I’ve blurbed or liked.

Today, it’s my turn.  I can’t resist posting the blurbs for Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning).   

"Cover

The blurbs:

  • “The soda industry is a powerful economic operator. Economic power readily translates into political power. Soda Politics is exactly the kind of carefully-researched investigative reporting needed to open the eyes of the public and parliamentarians to the health hazards of what is, as the author rightly notes, essentially liquid candy in a bottle.” –Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization
  • “No book in history has so completely laid bare the soda scourge that touches every corner of the world. Marion Nestle shows how this happened, its impact on human health and well-being, who the players are, and, most importantly, what might be done. This is the right book at the right time.” –Dr. Kelly Brownell, Dean, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
  • “Marion Nestle is one of the greatest muckrakers of our time, and what she does is vitally important-for our health, our environment, and for future generations. Here, she wages war against the soda titans with such piercing clarity and so many irrefutable truths that all other arguments crumble.” –Alice Waters, Founder and Proprietor of Chez Panisse
  • “Comprehensive and well-written, this book will help frame a thoughtful public policy debate about nutrition and the societal impacts and costs of obesity.” –Ann M. Veneman, Former US Secretary of Agriculture and Former Executive Director of UNICEF
  • “What happens when the food industry’s most insightful critic turns her sights on soda? This razor-sharp, fun to read, plan-of-battle for one of the greatest public health fights of our time. Big soda may have all the money, but those who would enter this fray, as we all should, now have their champion.” –Michael Moss, Author of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
  • “For decades, soda companies have amassed fortunes off drinks that are making us sick. It took someone like Marion Nestle to cut through the spin and uncover the high cost of cheap sodas.” –Robert Kenner, Director/Producer, Food Inc. and Merchants of Doubt
  • “Long recognized as an important and informed voice in our national and international discussions on nutrition and health, Marion Nestle has written another book that will keep us talking. With an impressive combination of scholarship and advocacy, Dr Nestle takes an unflinching look at the soda industry, its products and the impact on health. Soda Politics deserves the attention of the public and policy makers, and should make us all think more carefully about choices we can make to improve health and well-being.”–Margaret Hamburg, M.D., Former Commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration 

The book officially comes out October 5, but Oxford University Press is already shipping it to preorders and Amazon starts shipping it next week.

Enjoy!

Sep 8 2015

Should scientists with financial ties to Monsanto be subject to FOIA requests?

Sunday’s New York Times story on academic conflicts of interest focused on scientists with financial ties to Monsanto.  The ties were revealed by open-records requests for e-mails and other information.

The Times was not the only one to make these requests.  U.S. Right to Know, a group devoted to investigating Big Food and its front groups had already done so.  U.S. Right to Know is funded primarily by the Organic Consumers Association, a national grassroots network advocating for organics, sustainability, and food safety—but against GMOs.

U.S. Right to Know rightfully takes credit for establishing the basis of the Times’ story.  It sent open-records requests to scientists working for public institutions who seemed likely to have financial ties to Monsanto.  Bingo.  Some of the e-mails revealed such ties.*

But should government-funded scientists be subjected to open records requests?  Couldn’t these requests amount to open season on academics—a modern-day version of witchhunts?  This question is now under active debate (and see comments on my previous post).

While these debates are raging, here is one aspect of this story that the New York Times did not tell.

Earlier this month, Paul Thacker and my NYU colleague Charles Seife, wrote a piece for PLoS [Public Library of Science] Blogs arguing that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests “for personal correspondence are not just appropriate, but crucial to ensuring transparency.”   They argue that the benefits of transparency outweigh the costs.

But transparency laws remain a fundamental tool for monitoring possible scientific misbehavior. And it would be a mistake to believe that scientists should not be subject to a high level of outside scrutiny. So long as scientists receive government money, they are subject to government oversight; so long as their work affects the public, journalists and other watchdogs are simply doing their jobs when they seek out possible misconduct and questionable practices that could threaten the public interest.

Thacker and Seife explain:

Last week, Nature reported that the University of Florida had provided them with emails that U.S. Right to Know had FOIA’d on one of their researchers…the [Nature] story noted that the researcher has received money from Monsanto to fund expenses incurred while giving educational talks on GMOs.  The article also noted that the PR Firm Ketchum had provided the scientist with canned answers to respond to GMO critics, although it is unclear if he used them [the Times story says he did but now regrets it].

The article does not report that the scientist has repeatedly denied having a financial relationship with Monsanto. The article also does not report on an email titled “CONFIDENTIAL: Coalition Update” from the researcher to Monsanto in which the scientist advised Monsanto on ways to defeat a political campaign in California to require labeling of GMO products.

Some readers of PLoS were outraged that this online journal would publish an article supporting open-records requests of scientists (see, for example, this from the American Council on Science and Health).

Here’s where things get interesting.

PLoS responded to the criticism by, of all things, retracting the article.

Seife and Thacker explained their views in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

If the public pays your salary, citizens have the right — within limits — to see what you’re doing. That’s the principle at the core of the federal Freedom of Information Act and of the many similar state freedom of information laws… “snooping” on scientists’ inboxes by journalists, watchdogs and government officials has revealed significant problems that would never have come to light via other means.

That, of course, is the basis of the New York Times’ exposé of Monsanto’s funding of scientists to testify on the company’s behalf to reporters, Congress, and the public.

Bottom line: Because industry-funded science and scientists almost invariably provide data and testimony that favors the sponsors interests, the press and public need to know about sponsorship.

One more comment:  A substantial body of literature exists on industry sponsorship of science, particularly on the effects of pharmaceutical industry funding of medical professionals.  Conflicts-of-interest researchers conclude that such conflicts are generally unconscious, unintentional, and unrecognized by participants.  The remedy is increased government spending for research, an unlikely possibility these days.  This means journalists will be kept busy exposing the many problems that arise when scientists take industry funding.

*The documents collected by the New York Times

Additions:

Sep 6 2015

Another exposé of industry-funded scientists: this time, GMOs and organics

Today’s New York Times has another front-page (and on the inside, full-page) story on the food industry’s financial relationships with academic scientists.

The article describes how Monsanto funded scientists to lobby for GMOs in Washington (I will say more about this in a subsequent post).

But, as is clear from this report, the organic industry is doing much the same.

The Times based the story on e-mails it collected through open records law requests (the equivalent of Freedom of Information Act requests for federal documents).

And surprise!  I turn up in Charles Benbrook’s.  I learned this from checking Twitter yesterday.

Capture

I’m only on the B-list for influencing public opinion?  Alas.

It seems that Charles Benbrook, a strong proponent of organics (as am I), was working with (for?) the Organic Valley Cooperative on a public relations campaign to promote his organics-funded study demonstrating that organic milk has a healthier fatty acid profile than conventional milk.

I vaguely remember him contacting me about the study, but I didn’t write anything about it.  It appeared to be an industry-funded study with results favoring the sponsor’s interests—much as, in this case, I sympathize with those interests.

A few months later, I did write write about another conflicted organic study:

The study is not independently funded….This study is another example of how the outcome of sponsored research invariably favors the sponsor’s interests.  The paper says “the  [Sheepdrove] Trust  had  no  influence  on  the  design  and management of the  research  project  and  the  preparation  of publications  from the project,” but that’s exactly what studies funded by Coca-Cola say.  It’s an amazing coincidence how the results of sponsored studies almost invariably favor the sponsor’s interests.  And that’s true of results I like just as it is of results that I don’t like.

Benbrook has been criticized recently for not fully disclosing his ties to the organic industry.  Even if he had, disclosure is not enough.

The bottom line: Conflicted studies are conflicted, no matter who pays for them.

Documents: Charles Benbrook

Sep 3 2015

Five more industry-funded studies with predictable results. Score since March: 52:1

Energy flux: staying in energy balance at a high level is necessary to prevent weight gain for most people.  Gregory A Hand, Robin P Shook, James O Hill, Peter R Giacobbi, and Steven N Blair.   Expert Rev. Endocrinol. Metab.  Early online, 1–7 (2015)

  • Conclusion: Maintaining energy balance at a higher caloric intake and expenditure should be a more successful long-term strategy for weight maintenance than reduced consumption or extreme caloric restriction at a low level of energy expenditure (a low energy flux) and improve intervention effectiveness for sustainable methods for body weight stability. [Implication: eat more to lose weight?]
  • Funding: GA Hand received non-restricted research funding and travel grant from The Coca Cola Company and a travel grant from International Life Sciences Institute. RP Shook received a travel grant from the Coca Cola Company. JO Hill received research support from the Coca Cola Company and the American Beverage Association. JO Hill is on the advisory board for McDonalds, General Mills, Curves, Consumer Goods Association, Calorie Control Council, International Food Information Council and McCormick Science Institute. JO Hill is a consultant for Walt Disney, has equity in Gelesis and Active Planet and is on the Board of Directors for International Life Sciences Institute and Livewell Colarado. SN Blair is the principal investigator on projects supported by unrestricted research grants from The Coca Cola Company to the University of South Carolina.
  • Comment: Some of these investigators were among those highlighted in the New York Times article revealing Coca-Cola’s funding of research demonstrating that physical activity is more important than diet in weight maintenance.

Reducing obesity will require involvement of all sectors of society. James O. Hill, John C. Peters and Steven N. Blair. Obesity Volume 23, Issue 2, February 2015, Page: 255.

  • Conclusion: If the physical inactivity industry could commit to increasing physical activity by 78 calories a day per person, we would begin seeing some real success…we need innovative thinking, recognition that both food and physical activity are important, and open minds about how to engage all of society in making changes.
  • Disclosure: Dr. Hill reports personal fees from Coca-Cola, personal fees from McDonald’s, grants from American Beverage Association, personal fees from Walt Disney Company, personal fees from General Mills, personal fees from Calorie Control Council, other from International Life Sciences Institute, and other from Retrofit outside the submitted work. In addition, Dr. Hill has a patent Energy Gap issued. Dr. Blair reports grants from Technogym and grants from Coca-Cola. Dr. Peters has no competing interests to disclose.
  • Comment: same investigators as in previous example.

Instant Oatmeal Increases Satiety and Reduces Energy Intake Compared to a Ready-to-Eat Oat-Based Breakfast Cereal: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Candida J. Rebello MS, RD, William D. Johnson PhD, Corby K. Martin PhD, Hongmei Han MS, Yi-Fang Chu PhD, Nicolas Bordenave PhD, B. Jan Willem van Klinken MD, PhD, Marianne O’Shea PhD & Frank L. Greenway MD.  Journal of the American College of Nutrition Published online: 14 Aug 2015.  DOI:10.1080/07315724.2015.1032442

  • Conclusion: Oatmeal suppresses appetite, increases satiety, and reduces energy intake compared to the RTEC [ready-to-eat cereal].
  • Funding: The trial was funded by Quaker Oats Center of Excellence and PepsiCo R&D Nutrition….

Impact of equol-producing capacity and soy-isoflavone profiles of supplements on bone calcium retention in postmenopausal women: a randomized crossover trial.  Jessica W Pawlowski, Berdine R Martin, George P McCabe, Linda McCabe, George S Jackson, Munro Peacock, Stephen Barnes, and Connie M Weaver. Am J Clin Nutr September 2015 vol. 102 no. 3 695-703.

  • Conclusion: Soy isoflavones, although not as potent as risedronate [a drug used to treat osteoporosis], are effective bone-preserving agents in postmenopausal women regardless of their equol-producing status, and mixed isoflavones in their natural ratios are more effective than enriched genistein.  [Equol is an isoflavone produced by intestinal bacteria]
  • Conflicts: CMW is on the scientific advisory board of Pharmavite [the maker of SoyJoy]. SB has a US patent on the use of conjugated isoflavones and the prevention of osteoporosis.

Agave Inulin Supplementation Affects the Fecal Microbiota of Healthy Adults Participating in a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover TrialHannah D Holscher, Laura L Bauer, Vishnupriya Gourineni, Christine L Pelkman, George C Fahey, Jr., and Kelly S Swanson. J. Nutr. 2015; 145:2025-2032 doi:10.3945/jn.115.217331

  • Conclusions: Agave inulin supplementation shifted the gastrointestinal microbiota composition and activity in healthy adults. Further investigation is warranted to determine whether the observed changes translate into health benefits in human populations.  [Note: Agave inulin is a prebiotic, a fiber that can be metabolized by intestinal bacteria.  The study reports enrichment of fecal Bifidobacterium (the good kind)].
  • Funding: Supported in part by Global Nutrition R&D, Ingredion Incorporated, Bridgewater, NJ.  V Gourineni and CL Pelkman are employees of Global Nutrition R&D, Ingredion, Incorporated.  [Ingredion manufactures prebiotic fibers]

As always, please send examples, particularly of industry-funded studies that do not produce results in the sponsor’s interest.

Aug 26 2015

Five more industry-funded studies with expected results. Score: 47 to 1

The Inadmissibility of What We Eat in America and NHANES Dietary Data in Nutrition and Obesity Research and the Scientific Formulation of National Dietary Guidelines. Archer EPavela GLavie CJ. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Jul;90(7):911-26. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.04.009. Epub 2015 Jun 9.

  • Conclusion: we conclude that M-BM [memory-based dietary assessment methods] data cannot be used to inform national dietary guidelines and that the continued funding of M-BMs constitutes an unscientific and major misuse of research resources.
  • Funding: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.
  • Potential Competing Interests: Dr Archer has received honoraria from the International Life Sciences Institute and The Coca Cola Company. Dr Lavie reports receiving consulting fees and speaking fees from The Coca-Cola Company….
  • Comment: This is part of what appears to be a concerted effort by Coca-Cola to discredit NHANES, the national survey of dietary intake and disease risk that consistently associates soda intake to poor health.

A high-protein breakfast prevents body fat gain, through reductions in daily intake and hunger, in “Breakfast skipping” adolescents.  Heather J. Leidy, Heather A. Hoertel, Steve M. Douglas, Kelly A. Higgins and Rebecca S. Shafer.  Obesity.  Article first published online: 4 AUG 2015.  DOI: 10.1002/oby.21185

  • Conclusions: The daily addition of a HP [high-protein] breakfast improved indices of weight management as illustrated by the prevention of body fat gain, voluntary reductions in daily intake, and reductions in daily hunger in breakfast skipping adolescents with overweight/obesity.
  • Funding: The Pork Checkoff supplied the funds to complete the study.
  • Disclosure: The authors declared no conflict of interest.
  • Comment: Industry-funded investigators typically state that funding does not introduce conflicts of interest.

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. Nutrition.  First published August 12, 2015, doi: 10.3945/jn.115.214551  J. Nutr. jn214551

  • Conclusion: This study indicates that breakfast macronutrient composition affects postprandial responses in both NW [normal weight] and OW [overweight] children. A PRO [protein-rich breakfast] increases postprandial EE [energy expendititure] 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. The Egg Nutrition Center/American Egg Board was not involved in the design, implementation, analysis, or interpretation of the data.
  • Author disclosures: JI Baum, M Gray, and A Binns, no conflicts of interest.
  • Comment: These industry-funded investigators also deny that funding introduces conflicts of interest.

The Effect of Breakfast vs. No Breakfast on Brain Activity in Adolescents when Performing Cognitive Tasks, as Assessed by fMRI [functional magnetic resonance imaging].  Jonathan Fulford1, Joanna L Varley2 and Craig A Williams.   Nutritional Neuroscience 2015 epub ahead of print.

  • Conclusion: Although no statistically significant (P > 0.05) improvement in task performance was determined, significantly higher activation was recorded in the frontal, premotor, and primary visual cortex areas in the breakfast trial relative to the fasting condition…Such a finding may have important implications in the examination of the role of diet, and specifically breakfast, in determining children’s performance within the school environment.
  • Funding: A grant was received of £18,678.08 from Kellogg Marketing & Sales Company (UK) Ltd to cover MRI scanning costs. Otherwise the research was conducted with the support of internal institutional funds and the authors received no other direct or indirect support, with no further competing interests.
  • Comment: Ordinarily I’m not concerned about food companies’ donating products to be tested but £18,678.08 seems noteworthy, especially since the only point of this study is to demonstrate that breakfast-eaters do better (higher brain activation even though no significant gain in task performance).

Suboptimal Serum α-Tocopherol Concentrations Observed among Younger Adults and Those Depending Exclusively upon Food Sources, NHANES 2003-2006. McBurney MI, Yu EA, Ciappio ED, Bird JK, Eggersdorfer M, Mehta S (2015). PLoS ONE 10(8): e0135510. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135510

  • Conclusion: The prevalence of inadequate vitamin E levels is significantly higher among non-users of dietary supplements…Our findings provide evidence that most Americans have serum α-tocopherol levels below 30 μmol/L. The EAR [Estimated Average Requirement], epidemiological and randomized controlled studies all indicate that maintaining a serum α-tocopherol concentration of 30 μmol/L may have beneficial effects on mortality, cognitive function and reproduction [Note: “may” indicates that what follows is speculative].
  • Funding: This statistical analysis of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)…was supported by DSM Nutritional Products, a manufacturer of vitamin E. MM, EC, JB and ME are employees of DSM Nutritional Products. DSM Nutritional Products provided support in the form of salaries for authors MM, EC, JB, and ME and as an unencumbered gift to Cornell University that was used to support EY as a graduate research assistant.
  • Competing interests: This study was supported by DSM Nutritional Products, a manufacturer of vitamins, including vitamin E, for food, dietary supplement, and pharmaceutical use. MM, EC, JB, and ME are employees of DSM Nutritional Products.
  • Comment: Inadequate vitamin E in this study is defined as a serum level below a certain cut-point with uncertain clinical significance.  According to the Dietary Reference Intakes, clinical signs of vitamin E deficiency have not been observed in healthy populations.

Note: Since mid-March, I have posted 47 industry-funded studies with results favorable to food companies or trade associations, vs. 1 study with unfavorable results.

If you see industry-funded studies with results that must have made the sponsor unhappy, please send.

Aug 25 2015

Update on the school meal situation

School is starting and the school food debates will no doubt be starting up again.

The USDA has a new report on what’s happening with adoption of the new nutrition standards.

  • A national study of elementary school principals and foodservice managers finds the majority (63%) to agree or strongly agree (7%) that students seem to like the new lunches.
  • The participation rate for paid school lunches declined from FY 2008 through FY 2014, with steeper declines during FY 2012-2014.  This could be do to the changes in standards but is more likely the result of higher prices charged for meals.
  • Smaller, more rural, and wealthier districts had the most difficulty adopting the new meal standards. Higher meal prices affected smaller and more rural districts.

The 2015 School Food Poll conducted by the Kellogg Foundation just reported:

  • 90% of respondents support the national school nutrition standards.
  • 86% say the school nutrition standards should stay the same or be strengthened.
  • 91% say kids need access to safe drinking water in schools.
  • 88% support increased government funding to expand farm to school programs.
  • 84% believe sustainable agriculture should be part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The Kellogg Foundation provides

My interpretation: The nutrition standards are working well enough but it’s time to advocate even more strongly for universal school meals.  It’s absurd and unconscionable that poor kids are getting priced out of school meals.

Addition: The School Nutrition Association, the group doing everything it can to undermine the new nutrition standards, has just issued a report finding that the standards have caused severe financial harm to 70% of schools.  The reason?

There is strong consensus as to the leading reason for the decline in lunch ADP: decreased student acceptance of meals [.underlined in report].

The report does, however, provide a table of reasons for increased costs:

  • Increased per meal food costs — 70.1%
  • Decreased lunch participation — 56.8%
  • Decreased a la carte revenue — 53.0%
  • Increased labor/benefits costs — 48.5%
  • Declining student enrollment — 20.6%

Given these results, you might think the SNA would be lobbying night and day for higher reimbursement rates, but no such luck.  The SNA is lobbying for weaker standards.  Pity.

Addition, August 25:  A study from the University of Vermont finds school kids to be consuming slightly fewer servings of fruits and vegetables since the nutrition standards were implemented and to be producing 56% more plate waste.  This is not good news.

Addition, August 28:  But a CDC study finds that in 2014, schools were making significant progress:

  • Almost all schools offered whole grain foods each day for breakfast (97.2%) and lunch (94.4%)
  • Most schools offered two or more vegetables (79.4%) and two or more fruits (78.0%) each day for lunch.
  • Approximately one third (30.5%) of schools offered self-serve salad bars.
  • Among the 55.0% of schools that prepared food at the school, about half were trying hard to reduce salt.
  • Overall, 97.5% of schools used at least one of the nine school nutrition services practices examined, with 23.9% using one to three of the practices, 48.3% using four to six of the practices, and 25.3% using seven or more of the practices.

My interpretation: Schools are moving to adopt the new nutrition standards.  Some are succeeding better than others.  The outcome of studies therefore depends on whether you see the glass as half full, or empty.

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