Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
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.

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.


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.


Oct 2 2015

Weekend Reading: Emily Yates-Doerr’s “The Weight of Obesity”

Emily Yates-Doerr.  The Weight of Obesity: Hunger and Global Health in Postwar Guatemala. University of California Press, 2015.

Emily was a student in NYU’s anthropology department and I’ve admired her work for a long time.  Her book is based on her remarkable dissertation work, and I was happy to be asked to blurb it:

Emily Yates-Doerr gives us an anthropologist’s tough analysis of how one resource-poor Guatemalan population responds to an increasingly globalized food supply as it transitions rapidly from widespread hunger and malnutrition to the increasing prevalence of obesity and its health consequences.  The Weight of Obesity views this “nutrition transition” from the unusually revealing perspective of an insider who experienced it personally with eyes wide open.

For me, the most riveting parts of her book are the transcribed conversations between clinic nutritionists and patients newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes—a case study in the cultural gap between nutrient-based advice (“nutritionism”) and the way people actually eat.  The effects of the rapid influx of “ultra-processed” products on the health of the populations studied here are also painfully clear.  This is an ethnography of the nutrition transition caught just as these cultural and dietary shifts were occurring.

Oct 1 2015

Latest in supermarket marketing: Paleo friendly


Thanks to Andy Bellatti for noticing this at his local Las Vegas Whole Foods.

This reminds me so much of the Low-Carb craze way back in 2005.


Oh well.  Whatever works.

Sep 30 2015

Five more food-industry funded research studies with predictable results. Score 65:3.

Let me start with a reminder that since mid-March I’ve been collecting examples of studies funded by food companies or trade associations that come up with results favorable to the sponsor’s interests.  I post them five at a time.  I am having a hard time finding industry-funded studies that do not favor the sponsor’s interests.  If you run across any, please send.  Here’s the latest collection.

Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial: A Randomized Clinical Trial.  Estefanía Toledo, MD, MPH, PhD; Jordi Salas-Salvadó, MD, PhD; Carolina Donat-Vargas, PharmD; et al.  JAMA Intern Med. Published online September 14, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.4838

  • Conclusions and Relevance  This is the first randomized trial finding an effect of a long-term dietary intervention on breast cancer incidence. Our results suggest a beneficial effect of a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil in the primary prevention of breast cancer.
  • Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Dr Salas-Salvadó received grants from Instituto de Salud Carlos III and the International Nut and Dried Fruit Foundation during the conduct of the study and has received consultancy fees from Danone Research and Eroski outside the present work; he is also a nonpaid member of the Scientific Committee of the International Nut and Dried Fruit Foundation. Dr Estruch, outside the present work, has received grants from the California Walnut Commission, nonfinancial support from Patrimonio Comunal Olivarero (Spain), La Morella Nuts (Spain), and Borges SA (Spain) and grants from Novartis Farmaceutica SA, Cerveceros De España, Sanofi, FIVIN-Spain, Instituto Cervantes Albuquerque, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Culinary Institute of America, the International Family Doctors Association, and Instituto Cervantes (Milan, Italy). Dr Ros, during the conduct of the study, received grants from Instituto de Salud Carlos III and nonfinancial support from the California Walnut Commission, Patrimonio Comunal Olivarero, La Morella Nuts, and Borges SA. Dr Ros, outside the present work, has received grants from the California Walnut Commission and nonfinancial support from Nuts for Life, La Asturiana SA, the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council, and the California Walnut Commission and personal fees and other compensation from Nuts for Life and La Asturiana SA. Dr Hu, outside the present work, has received grants from the California Walnut Commission and Metagenics. Dr Fitó, outside the present work, has received personal fees from Menarini and AstraZeneca. No other disclosures are reported.
  • Funding/Support: Although most funding support came from government agencies, “The supplemental foods used in the study were generously donated by Patrimonio Comunal Olivarero and Hojiblanca, Spain (EVOO); the California Walnut Commission, Sacramento, California (walnuts); and Borges SA (almonds) and La Morella Nuts (hazelnuts), both from Reus, Spain.”

Evaluation of 4-methylimidazole, in the Ames/Salmonella test using induced rodent liver and lung S9 Carol Beevers1,* and Richard H. Adamson.  Environ. Mol. Mutagen., Article first published online: 10 SEP 2015.  DOI: 10.1002/em.21968.   

  • Conclusions: No induction of mutation (as measured by an increase in revertant colonies) was observed and it was concluded that 4-MeI was not mutagenic in S. typhimurium using either rodent liver or lung S9 for exogenous metabolism.
  • Conflicts of Interest: The work described in this publication…was funded entirely by the American Beverage Association. ABA had no direct involvement in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data. ABA were not involved in the writing of this manuscript or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. Richard H Adamson has received fees for serving as a consultant for the American Beverage Association. He was an observer for the International Technical Caramel Association for IARC Monograph- volume 101 and acted as Study Monitor for the work described in this manuscript. Carol Beevers is an employee of Covance Laboratories Ltd and acted as GLP Study Director for the work described in this manuscript.
  • Comment: 4-MEI is a chemical produced during the Maillard (browning) reaction and found as a component of caramel coloring in diet sodas.  It is listed as a probable carcinogen under California’s proposition 65 rules, and CSPI has petitioned the FDA to require companies to remove it.

Reduced Symptoms of Inattention after Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation in Boys with and without Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.  Dienke J BosBob OranjeE Sanne VeerhoekRosanne M Van DiepenJuliette MH WeustenHans DemmelmairBerthold KoletzkoMonique GM de Sain-van der VeldenAns EilanderMarco Hoeksma, and Sarah Durston.  Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 Sep; 40(10): 2298–2306.  Published online 2015 Apr 22.  doi:  10.1038/npp.2015.73.

  • Conclusion: this study offers support that omega-3 supplementation may be an effective augmentation for pharmacological treatments of ADHD [Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder].
  • Funding: This study was financially supported by Unilever Research & Development, Vlaardingen, The Netherlands. Unilever Research & Development was involved in the conception and design of the study. They provided financial support for research staff to run the study and provided the intervention product.  Marco Hoeksma and Ans Eilander are employees of Unilever.

Milk Modulates Campylobacter Invasion into Caco-2 Intestinal Epithelial Cells. Rogier Louwen, R. J. Joost van Neerven.  European Journal of Microbiology and Immunology 5 (2015) 3, pp. 1–7 2015.  doi:10.1556/1886.2015.00019.

  • Conclusions: We found that all milk products modulated the invasion of Campylobacter species into the Caco-2 cells in a dose-dependent manner…This in vitro study shows for the first time that pasteurized and formula milk affect the invasion of Campylobacter… Industrially made milk-based formulas…specifically reduced the invasion of the C. coli and C. fetus strain into the Caco-2 cells.
  • Funding: “Part of this study was supported by FrieslandCampina by paying material costs, but FrieslandCampina was not involved in study design or data analysis.”
  • Comment: FrieslandCampina makes dairy-based beverages, infant nutrition, cheese and desserts, and sells them in Europe, Asia, and Africa.  The study results suggest that even pasteurized milk contains substances that reduce pathogenic bacteria, at least in cell cultures.

Effect of the probiotic strain Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis, BB-12®, on defecation frequency in healthy subjects with low defecation frequency and abdominal discomfort: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial.   Dorte Eskesen, Lillian Jespersen, Birgit Michelsen, Peter J. Whorwell, Stefan Müller-Lissner and Cathrine M. Morberg. British Journal of Nutrition. DOI: , 9 pages. Published online: 18 September 2015.

  • Conclusions: Overall, 4 weeks’ supplementation with the probiotic strain BB-12® resulted in a clinically relevant benefit on defecation frequency. The results suggest that consumption of BB-12® improves the GI health of individuals whose symptoms are not sufficiently severe to consult a doctor.
  • Funding: Design, conduct, analysis and reporting of the study, as well as writing of this manuscript, were funded in full by Chr. Hansen…S. M.-L. and P. J. W. perform consultancy work for Chr. Hansen A/S. L. J., D. E., C. M. M. and B. M. are employees of Chr. Hansen A/S.
  • Comment: Chr. Hansen develops and produces cultures, enzymes and probiotics for the dairy industry in particular as well as products for dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals and infant formula.
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