by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Conflicts-of-interest

Aug 12 2015

Coca-Cola’s promotion of activity: a follow up

I’ve had a busy week dealing with the aftermath of Anahad O’Connor’s New York Times story about how Coca-Cola pays scientists who argue that obesity is more about activity than what you eat—drinking sodas, for example (I’m quoted).   It’s gotten 1180 comments.

Here’s Dan Wasserman’s from the Boston Globe:

In all fairness, let’s see what Coca-Cola’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr. Ed Hays, says in response (straight out of the tobacco industry’s playbook):

I was dismayed to read the recent New York Times’ inaccurate portrayal of our company and our support of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN). The story claimed Coke is funding scientific research to convince people that diets don’t matter – only exercise. In fact, that is the complete opposite of our approach to business and well-being and nothing could be further from the truth.

Yes, we fund scientific research through GEBN and we are proud to support the work that scientists such as Dr. Jim Hill and Dr. Steve Blair do – because their type of research is critical to finding solutions to the global obesity crisis.

At Coke, we believe that a balanced diet and regular exercise are two key ingredients for a healthy lifestyle and that is reflected in both our long-term and short-term business actions.

The article even got the attention of Congress.  Here’s the statement from Rosa de Lauro (Dem-CT), sponsor of The SWEET Act to tax sugars:

This research is reminiscent of the research conducted by the tobacco companies to mislead the public about the health risks of smoking.  The American public will not be fooled. There is a wealth of sound scientific research that demonstrates the link between sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and a host of health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.  This new group and their research are a sham,” DeLauro said.  “People want to be healthy and they want their kids to be healthy and realize that drinks full of empty calories are not good for them. That is why more and more Americans are opting to drink less soda every year.

I wrote a piece for The Guardian, which I will post tomorrow.

I don’t keep track of my interviews or media appearances unless people send me links (I post them under Media), but Rachel Harrison at NYU kept score yesterday.  As I said, a busy couple of days.

Additions, August 14

Fox News, August 11

  • Shepard Smith says “the story “reminds you of exactly what the tobacco industry did back in day, and more recently, it also reminds you of what the climate deniers — the climate change deniers — are doing as well.”
  • Rush Limbaugh said the Times‘ Coca-Cola story “undermine[s] the whole notion of a scientific consensus,” because it “can be bought and paid for.”

New York Times editorial, August 14

the evidence continues to mount that sugar-sweetened drinks are a major contributor to obesity, heart disease and diabetes, and that exercise makes only a modest contribution to weight loss compared to ingesting fewer calories.

Aug 10 2015

Food-industry conflicts of interest: newspaper revelations and five more studies with expected results: the latest collection

Don’t miss the article on the front page of today’s New York Times about Coca-Cola’s paying scientists who argue that obesity is more about exercise than diet (I’m quoted).

Last week, I posted two industry-funded studies with results that must have made their sponsors extremely unhappy.

But results like that are rare—so rare that the Washington Post wrote about one of them.

Today, I’m doing another in my series of posts of 5 (sometimes 6) studies sponsored by food and beverage companies for the purpose of obtaining results that can be used in marketing.

Since March, the count is 42 studies with results favorable to the sponsor but only 1 unfavorable (the other was from last year).

If you run across either kind, but especially industry-funded studies that don’t produce expected results, please send.

Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Berger, S., Raman, G., Vishwanathan, R., Jacques, P.F., Johnson, E.J., 2015. Am J Clin Nutr ajcn100305. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.100305.

  • Conclusion: Reviewed studies were heterogeneous and lacked the methodologic rigor to draw any conclusions regarding the effects of dietary cholesterol on CVD risk.  [Implication: suggestions that eggs might raise cardiovascular risk are unwarranted]
  • Sponsor: Supported by USDA agreement 1950-51000-073 and the American Egg Board, Egg Nutrition Center.

Milk intake is not associated with low risk of diabetes or overweight-obesity: a Mendelian randomization study in 97,811 Danish individuals.  Helle KM Bergholdt, Børge G Nordestgaard, and Christina Ellervik.  Am J Clin Nutr.  doi: 10.3945/ajcn. 114.105049

  • Conclusion: High milk intake is not associated with a low risk of type 2 diabetes or overweight-obesity, observationally or genetically via lactase persistence. The higher risk of type 2 diabetes in lactasepersistent individuals without milk intake likely is explained by collider stratification bias..
  • Funding source: HKMB’s PhD project was partly funded by the Research Unit at Naestved Hospital, the Danish Dairy Research Foundation

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet retains effectiveness to reduce blood pressure when lean pork is substituted for chicken and fish as the predominant source of protein. R Drew Sayer, Amy J Wright, Ningning Chen, and Wayne W Campbell. Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 102:302-308 doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.111757

  • Conclusion: The results indicate that adults with elevated BP [blood pressure] may effectively incorporate lean pork into a DASH-style diet for BP reduction.
  • Sponsor: This paper is sponsored by the national pork board.

Relationship between lifestyle behaviors and obesity in children ages 9-11: Results from a 12-country study. Katzmarzyk PT, Barreira TV, Broyles ST, Champagne CM, Chaput JP, Fogelholm M, Hu G, Johnson WD, Kuriyan R, Kurpad A, Lambert EV, Maher C, Maia J, Matsudo V, Olds T, Onywera V, Sarmiento OL, Standage M, Tremblay MS, Tudor-Locke C, Zhao P, Church TS; ISCOLE Research Group.

  • Conclusion: Behavioral risk factors are important correlates of obesity in children, particularly low MVPA [moderate to vigorous physical activity], short sleep duration, and high TV viewing.  [Implication: what they eat and drink doesn’t matter]
  • Sponsor: This research was supported by The Coca-Cola Company.

A systematic review of the cost and cost effectiveness of using standard oral nutritional supplements in community and care home settings. M. Elia, C. Normand, A. Laviano , K. Norman.  Clinical Nutrition 2015, online ahead of print. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2015.05.010

  • Conclusions: Overall, the reviewed studies, mostly based on retrospective cost analyses, indicate that ONS [oral nutritional supplement] use in the community produce an overall cost advantage or near neutral balance, often in association with clinically relevant outcomes, suggesting cost effectiveness. There is a need for prospective studies designed to examine primary economic outcomes.
  • Authors’ disclosures: ME, CN and AL have received honoraria for giving independent talks at national/international conferences supported by industry. KN has received speakers’ fees as well as financial support for research projects by commercial companies.
  • Comment: most studies of supplement use find little evidence of benefit.  Taking honoraria from industry doesn’t sound like much of a problem unless these financial ties are with supplement companies.  The authors do not specify and the journal’s editors must not require such specification.  They should.
Aug 6 2015

At last: two industry-funded studies with results that do NOT favor the sponsor’s interest

As regular readers know, I’ve been posting studies funded by food companies with results favorable to the companies’ interests whenever I run across five of them.   Since mid-March, I’ve posted 7 such collections for a total of 37 studies (two of the posts listed 6 studies).  These are all papers published since March.

With each set, I asked readers to send examples of studies that do not favor the sponsor’s interest.

They are rare, but do exist.  I’ve been sent two so far.  I’m guessing it will be a long time before I collect five, so have a look:

Butter increased total and LDL cholesterol compared with olive oil however resulted in higher HDL cholesterol than habitual diet. Sara Engel and Tine Tholstrup.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 1, 2015, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.115.112227.

  • Conclusions: Moderate intake of butter resulted in increases in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol compared with the effects of olive oil intake and a habitual diet (run-in period). Furthermore, moderate butter intake was also followed by an increase in HDL cholesterol compared with the habitual diet. We conclude that hypercholesterolemic people should keep their consumption of butter to a minimum, whereas moderate butter intake may be considered part of the diet in the normocholesterolemic population.
  • Sponsor: Danish Dairy Research Foundation
  • Comment: The data clearly show that butter raises blood cholesterol levels.  The authors spin it as positively as possible—higher HDL and it’s OK for people with normal cholesterol to eat moderate amounts of butter—but they make the downside quite clear.  In this study, “moderate” butter means 4.5% of calories or just 2/3 of a tablespoon for someone eating 2000 calories.  That’s not much, alas.

Influence of Pistachios on Performance and Exercise-Induced Inflammation, Oxidative Stress, Immune Dysfunction, and Metabolite Shifts in Cyclists: A Randomized, Crossover Trial.  David C. Nieman, Johannes Scherr, Beibei Luo, Mary Pat Meaney, Didier Dréau, Wei Sha, Dustin A. Dew, Dru A. Henson, Kirk L. Pappan.  PLoS One, November 19, 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113725

  • Conclusion: In summary, 2-weeks pistachio nut ingestion was associated with reduced 75-km cycling time trial performance and increased post-exercise plasma levels of raffinose, sucrose, and metabolites related to leukotoxic effects and oxidative stress.
  • Funder: This work was supported by American Pistachio Growers. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
  • Comment:  It’s obvious that the funders had no role.  I’ll bet they are quite unhappy with the results.

This second study came out last year but I’ll take any of these I can get.  Please do send.

But if I’m just counting since March, the ratio is 37 studies favoring the sponsor’s interest, to 1 that doesn’t.  Coincidence?  I’m not convinced.

Jul 30 2015

More industry-sponsored research with predictable results 

Once again, I am posting five food industry-sponsored studies with results that come out just the way the sponsor wants them to.  Coincidence?  Or something more serious?  I am trying to remain open-minded.  If you know of food industry-sponsored research that does not favor the sponsor’s interests, please send.  As soon as I collect five, I will post.

Diets with high-fat cheese, high-fat meat, or carbohydrate on cardiovascular risk markers in overweight postmenopausal women: a randomized crossover trial. Am J Clin Nutr ajcn109116, 2015.  doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.109116.  Thorning, T.K., Raziani, F., Bendsen, N.T., Astrup, A., Tholstrup, T., Raben, A.

  • Conclusion: Diets with cheese and meat as primary sources of SFAs [saturated fatty acids] cause higher HDL cholesterol and apo A-I and, therefore, appear to be less atherogenic than is a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.  Also, our findings confirm that cheese increases fecal fat excretion.
  • Sponsor: Supported 50% by the Danish Dairy Research Foundation and the Danish Agriculture and Food Council (Denmark) and 50% by the Dairy Research Institute (United States), the Dairy Farmers of Canada (Canada), the Centre National Interprofessionel de l’Economie Laitie`re (France), Dairy Australia (Australia), and the Nederlandse Zuivel Organisatie (Netherlands).

Normal or High Polyphenol Concentration in Orange Juice Affects Antioxidant Activity, Blood Pressure, and Body Weight in Obese or Overweight AdultsOscar D Rangel-Huerta, Concepcion M Aguilera, Maria V Martin, Maria J Soto, Maria C Rico, Fernando Vallejo, Francisco Tomas-Barberan, Antonio J Perez-de-la-Cruz, Angel Gil, and Maria D Mesa,  J. Nutrition.  First published July 1, 2015, doi: 10.3945/​jn.115.213660.  jn213660

  • Conclusions: Our results show that the consumption of either NPJ [normal polyphenol juice] or HPJ [high polyphenol juice] protected against DNA damage and lipid peroxidation, modified several antioxidant enzymes, and reduced body weight in overweight or obese nonsmoking adults.
  • Sponsor: Supported by research contract 3345 between the University of Granada–Enterprise General Foundation and Coca-Cola Europe [Coca-Cola owns Minute Maid and Simply Orange].

Fructose-Containing Sugars and Cardiovascular Disease.    James M Rippe and Theodore J Angelopoulos.   Adv Nutr 2015; 6:430-439 doi:10.3945/an.114.008177.

  • Conclusion:  …although it appears prudent to avoid excessive consumption of fructose-containing sugars, levels within the normal range of human consumption are not uniquely related to CVD risk factors with the exception of triglycerides, which may rise when simple sugars exceed 20% of energy per day, particularly in hypercaloric settings.  [My translation: this implies it’s OK to eat sugars up to 20% of calories per day, even though health authorities typically recommend 10% or less].
  • Author’s disclosure: JM Rippe has received consulting fees from ConAgra Foods, Kraft Foods, Florida Department of Citrus, PepsiCo International, The Coca Cola Company, Dr. Pepper/Snapple Group, Corn Refiners Association, and Weight Watchers International.

Sugars and Health Controversies: What Does the Science Say?   James M Rippe and Theodore J Angelopoulos.   Adv Nutr 2015; 6:493S-503S doi:10.3945/an.114.007195

  • Conclusion: …there is little scientific justification for recommending restricting sugar consumption below the reasonable upper limit recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 of no more than 25% of calories.  [Note: health authorities routinely recommend no more than 10% of calories].
  • Sponsor: supported in part by an educational grant from the Corn Refiners Association. Publication costs for this supplement were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This publication must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement.”
  • Author’s disclosure:  JM Rippe’s research laboratory has received unrestricted grants and JM Rippe has received consulting fees from ConAgra Foods, Kraft Foods, the Florida Department of Citrus, PepsiCo International, The Coca-Cola Company, the Corn Refiners Association, Weight Watchers International, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, and various publishers.

Do Fructose-Containing Sugars Lead to Adverse Health Consequences?  Results of Recent Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses.   Vanessa Ha, Adrian I Cozma, Vivian LW Choo, Sonia Blanco Mejia, Russell J   de Souza, and John L Sievenpiper.   Adv Nutr 2015; 6:504S-511S doi:10.3945/an.114.007468.

  • Conclusion: it is difficult to separate the contribution of fructose-containing sugars from that of other sources of excess calories in the epidemic of obesity and cardiometabolic disease. Attention needs to remain focused on reducing the overconsumption of all caloric foods associated with obesity and cardiometabolic disease, including sugary beverages and foods, and promoting greater physical activity.
  • Sponsor: Aspects of this work were funded by…a research grant from the Calorie Control Council.   [Note: the Council promotes the benefits of fructose].
  • Authors’ disclosure: RJdS has received research support from the CIHR, Calorie Control Council, the Canadian Foundation for Dietetic Research, and The Coca-Cola Company (investigator-initiated unrestricted grant)… JLS has received research support from the CIHR, Calorie Control Council, The Coca-Cola Company (investigator-initiated unrestricted educational grant), Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (investigator-initiated unrestricted educational grant), Pulse Canada, and The International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation. He has received travel funding, speaker fees, and/or honoraria from [among many others]… International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) North America, ILSI Brazil, Abbott Laboratories, Pulse Canada, Canadian Sugar Institute, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Corn Refiners Association, World Sugar Research Organization, Dairy Farmers of Canada….
Jul 20 2015

Another five food industry-sponsored studies with food industry-favorable results

Here’s my latest collection of five research studies paid for by a food manufacturer who can use the study results for marketing purposes.  My point: industry-sponsored studies invariably appear to favor the sponsor’s marketing interests.

I am not looking for sponsored studies in any systematic way.  They just appear.

I very much would like to find sponsored studies that produce results contrary to the sponsor’s interests.  If you see any, please send.

In the meantime, here’s the latest collection.

Cooked oatmeal consumption is associated with better diet quality, better nutrient intakes, and reduced risk for central adiposity and obesity in children 2-18 years: NHANES 2001-2010Carol E. Carolyn E. O’Neil,, Theresa A. Nicklas, Victor L. Fulgoni, III and Maureen A. DiRienzo.  Food & Nutrition Research 2015, 59: 26673

  • Conclusion: Consumption of oatmeal by children was associated with better nutrient intake, diet quality, and reduced risk for central adiposity and obesity and should be encouraged as part of an overall healthful diet.
  • Sponsor: PepsiCo (owner of Quaker Oats); the lead author is a member of the Kellogg’s Breakfast Council.

Including “Added Sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel: How Consumers Perceive the Proposed Change.  Idamarie Laquatra, Kris Sollid, Marianne Smith Edge, Jason Pelzel, John TurnerJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, June 9, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2015.04.017

  • Conclusion: NFPs [Nutrition Facts Panels] with “Added Sugars” declarations were misleading and the resulting misperception influenced purchase intent.
  • Funder: International Food Information Council (an industry-funded group).  Two of the authors are IFIC officials.
  • Note: The food industry generally opposes the FDA’s proposal to list “added sugars” on food labels.

Daily potassium intake and sodium-to-potassium ratio in the reduction of blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.  Aristea Binia, Jonathan Jaeger,  Youyou Hu, Anurag Singh, and Diane Zimmermann. Journal of Hypertension, Volume 33 Number 8 August 2015: 1509-1520.

  • Conclusion: Potassium supplementation is associated with reduction of blood pressure in patients who are not on antihypertensive medication…Patients with elevated blood pressure may benefit from increased potassium intake along with controlled or decreased sodium intake.
  • Sponsor: Nestlé Research Centre (all authors are affiliated with the Centre).
  • Note: Nestlé produces potassium-fortified products for patients with renal disease.  It might like to see the use of these products extended to other purposes, such as blood-pressure reduction.

Consuming High-Protein Soy Snacks Affects Appetite Control, Satiety, and Diet Quality in Young People and Influences Select Aspects of Mood and Cognition.  Heather J Leidy, Chelsie B Todd, Adam Z Zino, Jordan E Immel, Ratna Mukherjea, Rebecca S Shafer, Laura C Ortinau, and Michelle Braun. J. Nutr. 2015; 145:1614-1622   doi:10.3945/jn.115.212092.

  • Conclusion: Afternoon snacking, particularly on HP [high-protein] soy foods, improves appetite, satiety, and diet quality in adolescents, while beneficially influencing aspects of mood and cognition.
  • Sponsor: Du Pont Nutrition & Health (maker of soy ingredients). Two of the authors are employed by the company.

Effects of egg consumption on carotenoid absorption from co-consumed, raw vegetables.  Jung Eun Kim, Susannah L Gordon, Mario G Ferruzzi, and Wayne W Campbell. Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 102:75-83 doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.111062

  • Conclusion: These findings support the claim that co-consuming cooked whole eggs is an effective way to enhance carotenoid absorption from other carotenoid-rich foods such as a raw mixed-vegetable salad.
  • Sponsor: American Egg Board–Egg Nutrition Center, among others
  • Nutrition 101 note: Carotenoids are precursors of vitamin A.  They are fat-soluble and require fat to be absorbed into the body.  Any food fat will do.
Jun 25 2015

Industry-funded studies that do NOT favor the sponsor

I’ve been posting summaries of studies funded by food companies or trade groups, all of which come up with results that the sponsor can use for marketing purposes.

In each of these posts, I ask for examples of industry-funded studies that produce results contrary to the interests of the funder.

In response, I received this comment from Mickey Rubin, Vice President for Nutrition Research, National Dairy Council.

He gave me permission to reproduce his letter: 

Dear Marion,

By way of introduction, my name is Mickey Rubin and I am a scientist at the National Dairy Council. I understand that you know Greg Miller, and I asked him for your contact information so I could write to you directly after reading with great interest your most recent post on industry-funded nutrition research, in which you selected a sample of 5 studies/papers sponsored by industry all showing favorable outcomes. Although none of the papers you selected were sponsored by the organization I represent (although there is one dairy industry sponsored review paper in the list), what struck me is your focus on the favorable vs. unfavorable dichotomy, rather than the reality of what much nutrition science research results in: null findings.

It seems that there are fewer and fewer nutrition studies published that report the null, or find no effect. I agree with you that the reason we don’t see more of these studies in the literature has to do with bias, but I suspect that it is publication bias as much as any other bias. From my interactions with nutrition researchers, I gather it is quite difficult and sometimes impossible to get a study with no significant effects published regardless of funding source, to say nothing of allegiance bias by some researchers hesitant to publish findings that may go against their own hypotheses. Dr. Dennis Bier of Baylor College of Medicine and editor in chief of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has presented eloquently on this issue previously. You may also be aware of David Allison’s papers on other types of bias. So I think it is important to discuss all types of bias, and not just industry bias. You of course wouldn’t want your discussion on bias to be biased to just one type.

At National Dairy Council we have an extensive program of nutrition research that we sponsor at universities both nationally and internationally. While I can’t speak for all of industry, we strongly encourage the investigators of all of our sponsored studies to publish the findings, no matter the results. Thus, we would expect our sponsored studies to have a similar “success” rate as those sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. In fact, that is exactly what one recent analysis – not sponsored by the dairy industry – found, reporting that there was no evidence that dairy industry funded projects were more likely to support an obesity prevention benefit from dairy consumption than studies sponsored by NIH.

We feel this transparency is not only critical to the credibility of the research we sponsor, but we also feel it is important that our research contributes to nutrition science knowledge as a whole. We hope that other scientists take the findings from studies we sponsor and build upon them, and if it is by using research dollars from other sources, even better! I’ll be the first to stand up and say that one favorable study on milk, as an example, does not close the books on the subject. We need many studies in many different labs sponsored by multiple agencies in order to produce a portfolio of knowledge. I suspect that is certainly an example of where you and I are in agreement.

That all said, please allow me to provide some examples of studies the National Dairy Council has sponsored that are published and, rather than showing a clear benefit, do not refute the null hypothesis. These are all studies published within the last 4 years. It’s not meant to be comprehensive, but rather just a sample similar to what you provided. I could also provide you a list of studies we have sponsored that have shown favorable results for dairy, but you seem to have that covered, and I’ll instead wait until one of our sponsored studies appears in a subsequent blog post J.

Thanks for taking the time to read. I appreciate the dialogue.

Here’s his list of papers:

Studies with null finding:

Bendtsen et al. 2014:

  • No unique benefit of dairy protein over other proteins for weight maintenance

Maki et al. 2013:

  • No effect of three servings of dairy on blood pressure

Chale et al. 2013:

  • Whey protein supplementation offered no additional benefit over resistance training alone in older individuals

Lambourne et al. 2013:

  • No change in body weight or composition in adolescents performing resistance training and supplemented with milk, juice, or control

Van Loan et al. 2011:

  • Recommended dairy servings offered no additional weight loss benefit over calorie restriction without dairy servings 

Studies with mixed findings (some outcomes changed, others null):

Maki et al. 2015:

  • The main finding from the study was that dairy intake had no effect on glucose control whereas sugar sweetened product consumption contributed to a worsening of glucose control in at-risk adults.

Dugan et al. 2014:

  • Waist circumference and BMI were lower in women after consuming the dairy diet as compared to the control diet. Fasting glucose was lower in men following the dairy diet as compared to the control diet. There were no differences in blood pressure, serum lipids, fasting insulin, or insulin resistance between the treatments.

Here’s what I wrote in response:

I am familiar with charges of bias against independently funded researchers (“White-hat Bias”), which equates industry biases with biases that result from career objectives and other goals.  I do not view the biases as equivalent.  Industry-sponsored research has only one purpose: to be used in marketing to sell products.   As I have said repeatedly, it is easy to design studies that produce desired answers.

When I was in graduate school in molecular biology, we were taught—no, had beaten into us—to do everything we could to control for biases introduced by wishful thinking.  I don’t see that level of critical thinking in most studies funded by food companies.

You may be correct about the influence of publication bias with respect to dairy studies, but how do you explain the situation with sugar-sweetened beverages?  Studies funded by government and foundations typically indicate strong correlations between habitual consumption of sugary beverages and metabolic problems, whereas studies funded by the soda industry most definitely do not.   The percentages are too high to be due to chance: 90% of independently funded studies show health effects of soda consumption whereas 90% of studies funded by soda companies do not.  This is troubling.

We’ve seen the results of studies funded by tobacco and drug companies.  Are food-industry studies different?  I don’t think so.   What seems clear is that industry-induced biases are not recognized by funding recipients, a problem in itself.

That’s why I’m posting these studies as they come in and begging for examples of industry-funded studies that do not favor the interests of the donor.

Thanks to Mickey Rubin for writing and for permission to reproduce his letter.

Let the discussion continue!

Jun 23 2015

The food industry’s undue influence on the American Society for Nutrition

I’m catching up with events I missed while offline in Cuba.  Here’s one: Michele Simon’s new report:

The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) is the leading organization for physicians and scientists who conduct nutrition research.  I’ve been a member for years and have long fretted about the ASN’s too-cozy relationships with food company sponsors (for example, see my posts on the ill-fated Smart Choices campaign and on a recent ASN annual meeting).

Simon has now done for the ASN what she previously did for the American Academy of Dietetics.

A few of her findings:

  • Of the 34 scientific sessions at ASN’s annual meeting, 6 were supported by PepsiCo, and others were supported by the Egg Nutrition Center, Kellogg, DuPont Nutrition and Health, Ajinomoto, and the National Dairy Council.
  • The International Life Sciences Institute (a front group for Big Food and Big Pharma) sponsored a session on low-calorie sweeteners; speakers included a scientific consultant for Ajinomoto, which produces aspartame.
  • For $35,000, junk food companies can sponsor the hospitality suite at the annual meeting, where corporate executives socialize with nutrition researchers.
  • ASN published an 18- page defense of processed food that consists of numerous talking points for the junk food industry, such as “There are no differences between the processing of foods at home or at a factory.”
  • ASN opposes an FDA proposed policy to include added sugars on the Nutrition Facts panel, at a time when excessive sugar consumption is causing a national public health epidemic.

I’m quoted in the report:

I think it’s important that professional societies like ASN promote rigorous science and maintain the highest possible standards of scientific integrity. Research and education about food and nutrition are easily influenced by funding from food companies but such influence often goes unrecognized. This means that special efforts must be taken to avoid, account for, and counter food industry influence, and organizations like ASN should take the lead in doing so.

The report has been well covered by the media:

Relations between nutrition scientists and food companies worry me.  Here’s another example: Portuguese nutritionists have produced an e-book extolling the virtues of cereal-based drinks.  The book is sponsored by Nestlé (the company, not me).  Nestlé, no surprise, is the market leader for these products in Portugal.  I thank Vladimir Pekic of for finding this one.

Jun 10 2015

Industry-sponsored research: this week’s collection

Here is my latest roundup of industry-sponsored research producing results or opinions that favor the sponsor’s commercial interests.

Sugars and obesity: Is it the sugars or the calories?  Choo FL, Ha V, Sievenpiper JL.  Nutrition Bulletin, May 19, 2015.  DOI: 10.1111/nbu.12137

Conclusion: The higher level evidence reviewed in this report does not support concerns linking fructose-containing sugars with overweight and obesity.

Conflicts of interest: All three authors report scholarship or research support from such entities as the Canadian
Sugar Institute, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper Sapple, Corn Refiners Association, World Sugar Research Organization.

Cranberry Juice Consumption Lowers Markers of Cardiometabolic Risk, Including Blood Pressure and Circulating C-Reactive Protein, Triglyceride, and Glucose Concentrations in Adults.  Janet A Novotny, David J Baer, Christina Khoo, Sarah K Gebauer, and Craig S Charron. J. Nutr. 2015; 145:1185-1193 doi:10.3945/jn.114.203190.

Conclusion: LCCJ [low-calorie cranberry juice] can improve several risk factors of CVD [cardiovascular disease] in adults, including circulating TGs [triglycerides], CRP (c-reactive protein], and glucose, insulin resistance, and diastolic BP [blood pressure].

Sponsor: Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. and the USDA.  JA Novotny received funding from  and C Khoo is employed by Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.

Effect of cheese consumption on blood lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Janette de Goede, Johanna M. Geleijnse, Eric L. Ding, and Sabita S. Soedamah-Muthu

Conclusion: Despite the similar P/S ratios of hard cheese and butter, consumption of hard cheese lowers LDL-C and HDL-C when compared with consumption of butter.

Funding. The senior author received unrestricted research grants from the Global Dairy Platform, the Dairy Research Institute, and Dairy Australia for the present meta-analysis. One other author, E.L.D., has consulted for the Dairy Research Institute.

Protein Summit 2.0: Evaluating the Role of Protein in Public Health: Proceedings of a conference held in Washington, DC, October 2, 2013.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2015 Supplement.

Program organizer: Shalene McNeill, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and a Contractor to The Beef Checkoff.

Sponsors: The Beef Checkoff, Dairy Research Institute, Egg Nutrition Center, Global Dairy Platform, Hillshire Brands, National Pork Board

My comment: Journal supplements are typically paid for by outside parties—government agencies, foundations, private organizations, or food companies.  The papers in this supplement discuss various aspects of protein and health.  All emphasize the benefits of animal protein in human diets, as might be expected, given the sponsors.

Two examples:

Commonly consumed protein foods contribute to nutrient intake, diet quality, and nutrient adequacy.  Stuart M Phillips, Victor L Fulgoni III, Robert P Heaney, Theresa A Nicklas, Joanne L Slavin, and Connie M Weaver.  Am J Clin Nutr June 2015 vol. 101 no. 6 1346S-1352S.

Conclusion: dietary recommendations to reduce intakes of saturated fat and solid fats may result in dietary guidance to reduce intakes of commonly consumed food sources of protein, in particular animal-based protein.

The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance Heather J Leidy, Peter M Clifton, Arne Astrup, Thomas P Wycherley, Margriet S Westerterp-Plantenga, Natalie D Luscombe-Marsh, Stephen C Woods, and Richard D Mattes.

Conclusion:  Collectively, these data suggest that higher-protein diets…provide improvements in appetite, body weight management, cardiometabolic risk factors, or all of these health outcomes.

For the record: Industry sponsorship does not necessarily mean that the reported conclusions are wrong.  It just means that the papers require even more than the usual level of critical analysis.

I am happy to post industry-sponsored studies that do not produce results that can be used to market the sponsor’s products.  Please send if you find any.

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