Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Mar 16 2016

My latest edited book: Big Food: Critical perspectives

Simon N. WilliamsMarion Nestle (Editors).  Big Food: Critical perspectives on the global growth of the food and beverage industry.  Routledge, 2016.

Mar 15 2016

Five more industry-positive studies. The score: 150/12

Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial.  Thomas M Longland, Sara Y Oikawa, Cameron J Mitchell, Michaela C Devries, and Stuart M Phillips.  Am J Clin Nutr  March 2016  vol. 103 no. 3 738-746. doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.115.119339

  • Conclusion: Our results showed that, during a marked energy deficit, consumption of a diet containing 2.4 g protein · kg−1 · d−1 was more effective than consumption of a diet containing 1.2 g protein · kg−1 · d−1 in promoting increases in LBM [lean body mass] and losses of fat mass when combined with a high volume of resistance and anaerobic exercise.
  • Conflicts of interest: SMP has received research funding, travel allowances, and honoraria from the US National Dairy Council and Dairy Farmers of Canada. None of the other authors reported a conflict of interest related to the study.
  • Comment: Dairy, of course, is a source of protein.

Consumption of dairy foods and diabetes incidence: a dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies. Gijsbers LDing ELMalik VSde Goede JGeleijnse JMSoedamah-Muthu SS. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Feb 24. pii: ajcn123216. [Epub ahead of print]

  • Conclusion: This dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies suggests a possible role for dairy foods, particularly yogurt, in the prevention of T2D. Results should be considered in the context of the observed heterogeneity.
  • Funding: This meta-analysis project on dairy products and incident diabetes was funded by Wageningen University.  SSS-M previously received funding from Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute, and Dairy Australia for projects related to dairy effects on lipoproteins and mortality; JMG previously received funding from the Global Dairy Platform and Dutch Dairy Association for projects related to dairy and cardiovascular diseases; and ELD previously consulted for the Dairy Research Institute. LG, VSM, and JdG reported no conflicts of interest related to the study. Any prior sponsors had no role in the design and conduct of the study, data collection and analysis, interpretation of the data, decision to publish, or preparation of this manuscript. The current funder had no role in design and conduct of the study, data collection and analysis, interpretation of the data, or decision to publish.
  • Comment: The conclusions put a positive spin on results that can also be considered equivocal.

Plenary Lecture 2: Milk and dairy produce and CVD: new perspectives on dairy and cardiovascular health. Julie A. Lovegrove* and Ditte A. Hobbs.  Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, Page 1 of 12 doi:10.1017/S002966511600001X.

  • Conclusion: These apparent benefits of milk and dairy foods have been attributed to their unique nutritional composition, and suggest that the elimination of milk and dairy may not be the optimum strategy for CVD risk reduction.
  • Conflicts of Interest: The authors have previously received funding for research from AHDB Dairy. J. A. L. has acted as an advisor to the Dairy Council. J. A. L. has received funding for research from Volac for BBSRC case studentship and ‘in kind’ foods from Arla for an MRC funded study.

Multivitamin/mineral supplements: rationale and safety – A systematic review. Hans K. BiesalskiJana Tinz.  Nutrition, in press 2016.  doi:10.1016/j.nut.2016.02.013

  • Conclusion: Taken together, these findings indicate that MVM can be safe for long-term use (more than 10 years).
  • Funding: Editorial support was provided by Peloton Advantage and funded by Pfizer.

The challenges of vitamin and mineral supplementation in children with inherited metabolic disorders: a prospective trial.  A. Daly, S. Evans, S. Chahal, I. Surplice, S. Vijay, S. Santra and A. MacDonald.  J Human Nutrition and Dietetics.  Article first published online: 18 JAN 2016. DOI: 10.1111/jhn.12354 (thanks to Cole Adams for sending).

  • Conclusions: Despite improvements in some nutritional markers, overall use of the vitamin and mineral supplement was less than prescribed. New methods are needed to guarantee delivery of micronutrients in children at risk of deficiencies as a result of an essential manipulation of diet in inborn disorders of metabolism.
  • Funding: Anita MacDonald has received research funding from Merck Serono, Vitaflo Ltd and Nutricia. She is on Advisory Boards for Arla, Merck Serono and Nutricia. Anne Daly and Sharon Evans have received research funding from Vitaflo Ltd, and Nutricia. Research funding was obtained from Vitaflo International for the funding of this project.
Mar 14 2016

Gaming Australia’s Health Star labeling system

Australia has government-sponsored front-of-package nutrient labeling—the Health Star system—that looks a lot like the U.S. grocery industry’s Facts Up Front, but is even more favorable to manufacturers of processed foods.

As I explained a few years ago, Facts Up Front was a successful scheme by the Grocery Manufacturers and Food Marketing Associations to head off the FDA’s attempts to put traffic-light signals on the front of processed food products (here’s more of the back story).

Like the U.S. system, the Australian system is voluntary.  Unlike it, Health Stars are prominent and convey the impression that the more starts, the better.

A year into the program, Australian newspapers are writing about how companies are “gaming” the system:

SOURCE: CHOICE

Deakin University professor of public health nutrition Mark Lawrence said the health star rating system was being exploited as a marketing tool by junk food manufacturers to make consumers think their food was healthy. He said the scheme for packaged food undermined the public health message that people should eat fresh, unprocessed food.

This article quotes a statement by Kellogg that sales of Nutrigrain cereal went up after the company reformulated the product to raise its rating from 2 to 4 stars.

But isn’t reformulation a good thing?  It could be but just because a processed food is “better-for-you,” does not necessarily make it a good choice.

Professor Mark Lawrence of Deakin and Christina Pollard of Curtin University write:

Its main design limitation is that it simplistically frames the cause of, and solution to, dietary imbalances in terms of nutrients. This is fundamentally at odds with the latest nutrition advice, which uses a food-based approach…So what the health star rating system ends up doing is encouraging marketing of unhealthy or discretionary foods, as healthy options.

Overall, they point out:

Part of the problem is that the campaign’s main message – “the more stars the better” – is misleading…The actual health message is to eat more of these [recommended healthy] foods; it’s not that we should try to eat food with more stars.

Good advice.

Mar 12 2016

“Superannuated Chardonnay Socialist!” Moi?

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Sarah Whyte of ABC 7:30 interviewed me and others for a 6-minute segment on Coca-Cola’s funding of health researchers.  Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

TIM OLDS, UNI. OF SOUTH AUSTRALIA: I’ve got about $26 million worth of funding, and of that, probably less than $2 million would have come from industry sources. Most of it comes from government schemes such as the NHMRC and the ARC, a lot from government departments.

SARAH WHYTE: So when you take that funding, do you get other academics saying you shouldn’t be taking funding from that?

TIM OLDS: We get a lot of academics saying that.

SARAH WHYTE: He disagrees with people like Marion Nestle who says his work is compromised.

TIM OLDS: I think frankly this is an example old-style, superannuated chardonnay socialism.

Oh.

Here’s what he’s referring to (the dates are Australian).

February 17  Marcus Strom, a business reporter with the Sydney Morning Herald, invites me to lunch to discuss issues related to Soda Politics.

February 24  Strom publishes an article based on our conversation: “What Coca-Cola isn’t telling you about its health funding in Australia” (the video tells the story).

February 26  The Sydney Morning Herald publishes Strom’s account of our lunch interview.

March 1  I give a lecture on Soda Politics at the University of Sydney.

March 3  In response to my remarks, the director of Coca-Cola Amatil makes this statement: “one can [of soda] a week not unhealthy.”

March 10  Coca-Cola publishes a preliminary version of its “commitment to transparency,” listing some of the community organizations it funds.

March 10  Strom writes an analysis of the transparency list—$1.7 million in support of research over five years—noting several key omissions.

March 10  ABC 7:30 runs its video (and see transcript).

March 10  A blogger publishes a list of individuals funded by Coca-Cola during that period.

March 11  Coca-Cola releases the complete version of its transparency list, including the names of individuals.

March 11  I receive an e-mail message from a Coca-Cola official stating the company’s commitment to transparency.

We are continuing to progress on our commitment to enhance our transparency in markets across the globe. Today, in Australia and New Zealand, we launched country-specific websites listing our health and well-being partnerships, research and health professionals and scientific experts that have received financial support from Coca-Cola from 2010-2015. In December 2015, we launched sites with this information in Great BritainGermanyFranceIreland, DenmarkFinlandBelgiumSwedenNorway and the Netherlands.  We will publish the six-month update for the U.S. later this month.

March 11  Strom attempts to interview the 14 health experts on Coca-Cola’s list; most don’t return his calls.

Coca-Cola deserves much praise for following through on its transparency commitments.  The aftermath continues.

Additions: New Zealand transparency and more from Australia

March 3: Coke: One can a week ‘not unhealthy’

March 11:  Coca-Cola cash went to NZ health organisations and research

March 11: Coca-Cola funds research in NZ, NZ Herald

March 13: Three Kiwi health professionals took money from Coca-Cola

March 14:  Gary Moorhead, past CEO of Sports Medicine Australia argues that shaming researchers does no good

March 15: NZ Dominion Post editorial says dentists should not take money from Coca-Cola

March 16: The Press, New Zealand, editorial on whether Coca-Cola should be paying scientists

Mar 11 2016

Should the East River Pepsi-Cola sign be landmarked?

An editor at the New York Times invited me to write an op-ed on the proposed landmarking of the East River Pepsi-Cola sign, but then said:

We’re not going to use this. People really love that Pepsi sign so much that they don’t want to hear arguments against it.

So I offered it to the Daily News.  I’ve written for it before.  Its editors are highly professional and a pleasure to work with.  And it goes to an audience to which I do not usually have access.   See what you think.

The Long Island City Pepsi-Cola sign: Hazard, not landmark

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, March 10, 2016, 5:00 AM
Looks pretty. Tastes sweet. Has ugly side effects.

Looks pretty. Tastes sweet. Has ugly side effects.

I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission had deemed the Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City, Queens, so worthy of permanent preservation that it was considering it for landmark status.

Granted, the neon monument has been part of the East River landscape for the past 80 years. And yes, there is precedent for landmarking a sign rather than a building. Pine Bluff, Ark., chose to landmark a McDonald’s sign, and Cambridge, Mass., preserved a Shell Oil sign.

But the fact is that the Pepsi-Cola sign is a highly visible expression of soda industry marketing. The sign advertises a sugar-sweetened beverage — precisely what the city Health Department has, with good reason, been working hard to discourage New Yorkers from consuming in large quantities.

For the past few years, subway poster campaigns have featured the astonishing amounts of sugar contained in carbonated sodas — close to a teaspoon per ounce. They have also illustrated how this excessive sugar turns to fat in the body, how sugary beverages raise the risk for type 2 diabetes, and how much walking it takes to work off the calories in a single 20-ounce drink — a trek from Union Square to Brooklyn.

And let’s not forget former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ultimately unsuccessful though valiant attempt to set a cap of 16 ounces on sugary beverages sold in places under city jurisdiction.

That particular tactic was hugely controversial. But nobody can seriously dispute that sugary drinks contribute to obesity and its consequences.

Pepsi may be the underdog — Americans drink more Coke — but it is a very large runnerup in the sugary drink category. Its revenues in 2015 amounted to $63 billion worldwide.

Pepsi is Big Soda incarnate. It works hard to maintain that position, spending more than $200 million a year advertising Pepsi-Cola alone. It is also Big Food. Altogether it spends about $2 billion a year on worldwide marketing for all of its products, including Frito-Lay snack foods and other brands.

To generate sales, Pepsi relentlessly targets its marketing to teenagers and young adults and, as part of that approach, generously pays sports and music figures to endorse its products.

We’ve all seen the Super Bowl ads. We know about the reported $50 million deal with Beyoncé. And like Coca-Cola, although not quite to the same extent, PepsiCo funds health organizations such as the American heart and cancer associations, and contributes to health programs at universities such as Yale. All of this can buy loyalty from health professionals, and also silence from them about the role of soft drinks in health.

Soda advertising is so much a part of the American landscape that most of us don’t even notice it anymore. It is just there. And that’s how the company intends it. As an industry executive once told me, effective advertising is supposed to slip below the radar of critical thinking.

I’m guessing that’s what’s happening with the Pepsi-Cola sign. Its significance as advertising for a sugary drink — one best consumed infrequently and in small amounts — has become unnoticeable. To the landmarks folks, therefore, this is just a quaint piece of history — not an active, pulsating sign promoting something dangerous to human health.

But landmarking the Pepsi sign, which is visible to millions of New Yorkers and tourists every single day, would engage New Yorkers as formal partners in marketing sugary drinks.

I can’t help but remember the Camel cigarette sign in Times Square, for years blowing smoke rings. Would today’s Landmarks Preservation Commission want that billboard preserved for eternity? Or would it blush at the thought of promoting and sustaining an icon of corporate marketing, and of an unhealthful product at that?

Mar 10 2016

Food-Navigator USA’s Special Edition on Weight Management

Food-Navigator USA publishes occasional “special editions” with collections of articles on similar topics.  This one is on how food companies are dealing with weight management: “With almost two thirds of Americans overweight or obese, weight management is still a huge market opportunity for food and beverage manufacturers. However, messaging is moving away from diet-based concepts to more positive messages about food quality, satiety, and overall health & wellness.”track

Mar 8 2016

Another five industry-funded studies with sponsor-favorable results. The score: 145/12

Thanks to a reader for sending these items from a journal that I don’t usually come across.  These bring the casually collected total since last March to 145 studies favorable to the sponsor versus 12 that are not.

Consuming the daily recommended amounts of dairy products would reduce the prevalence of inadequate micronutrient intakes in the United States: diet modeling study based on NHANES 2007–2010Erin E Quann, Victor L Fulgoni III and Nancy Auestad. Nutrition Journal 2015; 14:90 DOI: 10.1186/s12937-015-0057-5

  • Conclusion: Increasing dairy food consumption to recommended amounts is one practical dietary change that could significantly improve the population’s adequacy for certain vitamins and minerals that are currently under-consumed, as well as have a positive impact on health.
  • Funding: The study and the writing of the manuscript were supported by Dairy Management Inc.

Association of lunch meat consumption with nutrient intake, diet quality and health risk factors in U.S. children and adults: NHANES 2007–201Sanjiv Agarwal, Victor L. Fulgoni III and Eric P. Berg. Nutrition Journal. 2015;14:128.  DOI: 10.1186/s12937-015-011f8-9

  • Conclusions: The results of this study may provide insight into how to better utilize lunch meats in the diets of U.S. children and adults.
  • Funding: The present study was funded by North American Meat Institute.

A review and meta-analysis of prospective studies of red and processed meat, meat cooking methods, heme iron, heterocyclic amines and prostate cancerLauren C. Bylsma and Dominik D. Alexander.  Nutrition Journal. 2015;14:125. DOI: 10.1186/s12937-015-0111-3

  • Conclusion: Dose-response analyses did not reveal significant patterns of associations between red or processed meat and prostate cancer….although we observed a weak positive summary estimate for processed meats.
  • Funding: This work was supported in part by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. NCBA did not contribute to the writing, analysis, interpretation of the research findings, or the decision to publish…LCB and DDA are employees of EpidStat Institute. EpidStat received partial funding from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, for work related to this manuscript. The conceptualization, writing, analysis, and interpretation of research findings was performed independently.

Are restrictive guidelines for added sugars science based?  Jennifer Erickson and Joanne Slavin.  Nutrition Journal. 2015;14:124.  DOI: 10.1186/s12937-015-0114-0

  • Conclusion: However, there is currently no evidence stating that added sugar is more harmful than excess calories from any other food source. The addition of restrictive added sugar recommendations may not be the most effective intervention in the treatment and prevention of obesity and other health concerns.
  • Disclosure: Jennifer Erickson, is a PhD student in Nutrition at the University of Minnesota working with Dr. Joanne Slavin. Joanne Slavin is a professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota.  In the past 5 years, she has given 150 scientific presentations in 13 countries. Many of these meetings received sponsorship from companies and associations with an interest in carbohydrates and nutritive sweeteners…Her research funding for the past 5 years has included grants from General Mills, Inc., Tate and Lyle, Nestle Health Sciences, Kellogg Company, USA Rice, USA Pears, Minnesota Beef Council, Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council, Barilla Company, USDA, American Egg Board, American Pulse Association, MNDrive Global Food Ventures, International Life Science Institute (ILSI), and the Mushroom Council. She serves on the scientific advisory board for Tate and Lyle, Kerry Ingredients, Atkins Nutritionals, Midwest Dairy Association and the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE). She holds a 1/3 interest in the Slavin Sisters Farm LLC, a 119 acre farm in Walworth, WI.

Cow’s milk-based beverage consumption in 1- to 4-year-olds and allergic manifestations: an RCTM. V. Pontes, T. C. M. Ribeiro, H. Ribeiro, A. P. de Mattos, I. R. Almeida, V. M. Leal, G. N. Cabral, S. Stolz, W. Zhuang and D. M. F. Scalabrin.  Nutrition Journal. 2016;15:19.  DOI: 10.1186/s12937-016-0138-0

  • Conclusion: A cow’s milk-based beverage containing DHA, PDX/GOS, and yeast β-glucan, and supplemented with micronutrients, including zinc, vitamin A and iron, when consumed 3 times/day for 28 weeks by healthy 1- to 4-year-old children was associated with fewer episodes of allergic manifestations in the skin and the respiratory tract.
  • Funding: This study was funded by Mead Johnson Nutrition…The study products were provided by Mead Johnson Nutrition. Dr. Scalabrin, S. Stolz, and W. Zhuang work in Clinical Research, Department of Medical Affairs at Mead Johnson Nutrition. All of the remaining authors have no financial relationships to disclose.

Whole grain consumption trends and associations with body weight measures in the United States: results from the cross sectional National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001–2012.  Ann M. Albertson, Marla Reicks, Nandan Joshi and Carolyn K. Gugger.  Nutrition Journal 2016;15:8.  DOI: 10.1186/s12937-016-0126-4

  • Conclusions: The data from the current study suggest that greater whole grain consumption is associated with better intakes of nutrients and healthier body weight in children and adults. Continued efforts to promote increased intake of whole grain foods are warranted.
  • Competing interests:  Marla Reicks received an unrestricted gift from the General Mills Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition during the manuscript preparation to support research at the University of Minnesota.  Carolyn Gugger and Nandan Joshi are current employees and stockholders of General Mills, Inc.  Ann Albertson was an employee of General Mills, Inc during the conception, analysis and initial preparation of the manuscript. She is currently retired from General Mills.
  • Non-financial competing interests: General Mills, Inc is a global consumer foods company that manufactures and sells products across a broad variety of food categories, including grain-based foods. General Mills product portfolio includes ready-to-eat cereals, cereal bars, baked goods, flour, and salty snacks that may contain whole grain.
Mar 7 2016

Sugar: in Australia, it’s “Better for You”

At my lecture at the University of Sydney last week, a member of the audience presented me with a 750-gram package of Low GI [Glycemic Index] cane sugar, labeled “Better for you.”

This product is sugar.  Its ingredient list says “pure cane sugar.”

The label also says:

  • 100% Natural
  • Longer Lasting Energy

The Glycemic Index (GI) refers to the comparative ability of 50 grams of a food to raise blood glucose levels.  The standard is pure glucose, which has a  GI of 100.

This sugar has a GI of 50.  Hence: “Low GI.”

Of course it does.  Cane sugar is sucrose: 50% glucose, 50% fructose.  It’s half fructose, which is absorbed more slowly and has a much lower GI.

The CSR website says:

CSR LoGiCane™ uses world first technology to develop a sugar with a naturally Low Glycemic Index (GI). It works by spraying an all natural molasses extract onto raw sugar. This molasses naturally increases sugar’s resistance to digestion. By having a low GI, CSR LoGiCane™ takes longer to be digested, resulting in a slower release of energy, which can help curb hunger cravings. CSR LoGiCane™ represents innovation in sugar – the same sweet tasting natural sugar, with the added benefit of carrying the official Low GI symbol and a Low GI rating of just 50.

No, I am not making this up.

I can’t imagine that the difference in speed of absorption of cane sugar and of sprayed cane sugar is measurable, let alone meaningful.

And what about the fructose?  Fructose is the source of much concern about the effects of excessive intake on liver and heart function, so much that Dr. Robert Lustig considers it a “poison.”

This particular brand of sugar carries a certification seal from the Glycemic Index Foundation, whose motto is “making healthy choices easy.”  It is supported by the University of Sydney and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The Foundation generates income by licensing the low GI Symbol to manufacturers of healthier low GI foods.

Is “low GI” cane sugar healthier than cane sugar?   The mind boggles.

The World Health Organization recommends that added sugars of any kind comprise no more than 10% of calories, with 5% being even better.  for many people, this translates to eating less sugar of any kind.  Good advice.

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