by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Dairy

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….
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 11 2014

Michele Simon’s latest report: “Whitewashed” (she means dairy foods)

I always am interested in Michele Simon’s provocative reports.  Her latest, Whitewashed, is no exception.  It’s about how the government promotes dairy foods, no matter what kind or where they appear.

New Picture

Read her blog post here.

Download the full report here.

Read the executive summary here.

Here’s are some of the surprising (to me) findings detailed in the report:

  • About half of all milk is consumed either as flavored milk, with cereal, or in a drink;
  • Nearly half of the milk supply goes to make about 9 billion pounds of cheese and 1.5 billion gallons of frozen desserts–two-thirds of which is ice cream;
  • 11 percent of all sugar goes into the production of dairy products.

Where the government enters the picture is through the “checkoff programs” for promoting milk and dairy.  These are USDA-Sponsored programs, paid for by dairy farmers through checkoff fees, but run by the USDA.

U.S. Department of Agriculture employees attend checkoff meetings, monitor activities, and are responsible for evaluation of the programs. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the checkoff programs as “government speech”, finding: “the message … is controlled by the Federal Government.”

The report has some interesting findings about the checkoff.  Although checkoff funds are supposed to be used for generic marketing, the dairy checkoff helped:

  • McDonald’s make sure that dairy foods play an important role in product development.
  • Taco Bell introduce its double steak quesadillas and cheese shreds.
  • Pizza Hut develop its 3-Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza and “Summer of Cheese” ad campaign.
  • Dominos add more cheese to its pizzas as a result of a $35 million partnership.
  • Domino’s “Smart Slice” program introduce its pizza to more than 2,000 schools in 2011.
  • Promote “Chocolate Milk Has Muscle” and “Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk.”

I like dairy foods, but should the government be doing this?


Feb 4 2014

The dairy programs in the farm bill: A helpful analysis?

Thanks to the Hagstrom Report for sending along analyses of the dairy programs in the farm bill.

I’m not a dairy farmer and I’ve never had to work with these programs, which is a good thing because I find them impenetrable.  

For one thing, support for dairy farmers—and protection against disastrous cost and price fluctuations—is accomplished through several extraordinarily complicated programs that survive or are newly enacted in this farm bill.  

  • The permanent Dairy Price Support Program from the 1949 farm bill.
  • The Dairy Forward Pricing Program
  • The Dairy Indemnity Program
  • Export market development in the National Dairy Promotion and Research Program
  • The Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers (MPP)
  • The Dairy Product Donation Program (DPDP)
  • Federal Milk Marketing Order for California

Why impenetrable?  Try this explanation (from the first document listed below) of the new Margin Protection Program:

A voluntary program that pays participating farmers an indemnity when a national benchmark for milk income over feed costs (the actual dairy production margin or ADPM) falls below an insured level that can vary over a $4 per cwt range.

That document explains the two new programs, MPP and DPDP, in great detail, with charts and formulas.  For them, I have to take the authors’ conclusions on faith:

The two new programs (MPP and DPDP) offer a total revamping of the safety nets that have been in place for the dairy sector going back to the middle of the 20th Century…Whether the programs proposed here will prove to be the answer farmers seek is something that will be debated and estimated, but we won’t really know unless and until they are tried.

Dairy farmer readers:  Will these new programs make your lives easier?  More secure?  Bring you more income?

Here are the analyses:




Jan 7 2014

Today’s irony: butter

A new report from Finland says that people with metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar, etc) do not follow dietary recommendations.

In particular, their diets contain too much saturated fat and sodium.

The saturated fat part is funny because this morning’s PoliticoPro Agriculture notes that the American Butter Institute (yes, such things exist) proudly announces that Americans are consuming more butter.

The Butter Institute’s press release, according to PoliticoPro, says:

Margarine and other spreads are no longer viewed as healthier alternatives…since 2002, Americans have increased butter consumption by 25 percent. In 2012, per capita consumption reached 5.6 pounds a year, a dramatic increase from the 1997 low of 4.1 pounds.

We still have a way to go to beat the Finns.  In 2011, average butter consumption in Finland was 4 kilos (nearly 9 pounds), and rising.

Love butter?  Better eat your veggies and balance calories!

Nov 12 2013

Annals of marketing: Got Milk?–Lady Gaga style

This gem comes courtesy of

New Picture (2)

It got my attention, for sure.

Recall that Got Milk! ads are funded by a USDA-sponsored research and promotion (a.k.a “checkoff”) program, this one, appropriately, for fluid milk.

Will this ad help reverse the long-term trend in declining milk sales let alone consumption?

Um.  Why don’t I think so.

Aug 12 2013

What’s up with Chinese infant formula?

I would never have predicted that infant formula, of all things, would become the poster child for the down side of globalization.  Look at all the issues:

Price fixing

The Chinese government has just fined six infant formula companies for fixing prices:

  • Mead Johnson (US): $33 million
  • Dumex/Danone (France): $28 million
  • Biostime (Hong Kong): $27 million
  • Abbott Labs (US): $13 million
  •  Royal FrieslandCampina (The Netherlands): $8 million
  •  Fonterra (New Zealand): $700,000

The fines may seem severe but the Chinese bought $12.7 billion worth of infant formula in 2012 and are expected to buy $18.4 billion in 2014.

Botulism contamination

Fonterra, the New Zealand manufacturer of infant formula contaminated with the type of bacteria that cause botulism, says it’s sorry.

We deeply apologize to the people who have been affected by the issue.

Food safety is our first and foremost interest.

That’s  what they all say when something like this happens.

The company noticed botulinum contamination in March but did not identify the contaminating strain or notify consumers until last week.  That’s also typical.

Fonterra made $15.7 billion in sales last year, more than half of it from selling dairy foods to China.  Other big customers are in Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Vietnam.

China has now stopped importing Fonterra’ powdered infant formula.  This alone was worth nearly $1.9 billion last year.

Recall that Fonterra was a part owner of the Chinese company that made infant formula laced with melamine—the formula that made more than 300,000 babies sick.  Six died.  That happened in 2008, with dire consequences for Chinese formula manufacturers.

Distrust of Chinese infant formula

Since then, the Chinese have become suspicious of local infant formula and are buying foreign infant formula to the point of scarcity.  The new scare makes that situation even worse.

In Hong Kong, officials have been cracking down on foreign infant formula smugglers.

Joe Nocera of the New York Times attributes the scandal to three problems with China’s rapidly expanding economy:

  • Complete lack of faith in Chinese companies.
  • Corner-cutting deeply ingrained in Chinese business culture, with no government regulatory enforcement.
  • Bad incentives.

He has a Slide Show to back this up.

Other consequences

Decline in breastfeeding.  Rates of breastfeeding in China are declining.  Do Western infant formula companies have anything to do with this?

Environmental Pollution.  I was at an agriculture meeting in New Zealand a few years ago and got an earful about what it means to convert a sheep-growing country to one focused on dairy cattle: pristine to polluted.

Alas, the externalized costs of globalization.

Apr 22 2013

Food politics makes strange bedfellows, again

Last week, I wrote about the dairy industry’s petition to avoid having to follow FDA rules about labeling artificial sweeteners on the front of milk cartons.

Cara Wilking, Senior Staff Attorney at the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University points out that the Sugar Association, the trade association for producers of cane and beet sugar, is right on top of this issue.

To assist consumers in making informed choices about what is sweetening the products they purchase, the Sugar Association petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting changes to labeling regulations on sugar and alternative sweeteners.

In this petition we asked that artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols be identified on the front of the package along with the amounts, similar to what is required in Canada.

If it is important to you to know if the product you purchase contains artificial sweeteners, let your congressional representatives know that FDA needs to take action on this important consumer issue.

The Sugar Association, obviously, represents the producers of cane and beet sugar. It wants to sell more sugar.  It doesn’t like artificial sweeteners much.  [Recall: it doesn’t like me much either—go to Media and scroll down to the bottom to read the Sugar Association’s letter threatening to sue me].

In contrast, the dairy industry wants to sell more milk.  Sweetened milk, no matter with what, sells to kids.  School kids are a big market for the dairy industry.  This market, however, is not doing well these days, according to the dairy industry’s August 2012 School Channel Survey.

Schools and processors are realizing 59% of current potential…Milk potential stands at 6.29 milks per student each week…Actual usage is 3.74 milks per student each week.  Elementary schools: 70% of potential being realized, down 1 point Secondary schools: 50%, down 1 point over last year.

Achieving ‘a milk with every meal’ translates into nearly 300 million incremental gallons….

Of course artificial sweeteners should be prominently labeled.  The Sugar Association has this one right.

Whatever your opinion, you can file comments at Search for docket number FDA-2009-P-0147.


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