Conflicts of interest in nutrition research: recent examples
I’ve been collecting examples of conflicted research for the past week or so. These are studies paid for in part by food businesses or trade associations with a vested financial interest in the outcome of the research.
These almost invariably promote the financial interests of the sponsor. To wit:
Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study—a randomized controlled trial, by Daniela Mastroiacovo, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Davide Grassi, Stefano Necozione, Angelo Raffaele, Luana Pistacchio, Roberta Righetti, Raffaella Bocale, Maria Carmela Lechiara, Carmine Marini, Claudio Ferri, and Giovambattista Desideri. Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 101:538-548 doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.092189.
- Conclusion: These data suggest that the habitual intake of flavanols can support healthy cognitive function with age.
- Sponsor: Mars, Inc.
Sugar-Sweetened Product Consumption Alters Glucose Homeostasis Compared with Dairy Product Consumption in Men and Women at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, by Kevin C Maki, Kristin M Nieman, Arianne L Schild, Valerie N Kaden, Andrea L Lawless, Kathleen M Kelley, and Tia M Rains. J Nutr. 2015; 145:459-466 doi:10.3945/jn.114.204503.
- Conclusion: These results suggest that SSP consumption is associated with less favorable values for HOMA2–%S, LMTT disposition index, HDL cholesterol, and serum 25(OH)D in men and women at risk of T2DM vs. baseline values and values during dairy product consumption.
- Sponsor: Dairy Research Institute/National Dairy Council
Squeezing Fact from Fiction about 100% Fruit Juice, by Roger Clemens, Adam Drewnowski, Mario G Ferruzzi, Cheryl D Toner, and Diane Welland. Adv Nutr 2015;6: 236S-243S. doi: 10.3945/an.114.007328.
- Conclusion: The preponderance of evidence supports the position that 100% fruit juice delivers essential nutrients and phytonutrients, provides year-round access to a variety of fruits, and is a cost-effective way to help people meet fruit recommendations.
- Sponsor: Juice Products Association
Can probiotic yogurt prevent diarrhoea in children on antibiotics? A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study, by Michael J Fox, Kiran D K Ahuja, Iain K Robertson, Madeleine J Ball, Rajaraman D Eri. BMJ Open 2015;5:e006474. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-006474.
- Conclusion: A yogurt combination of LGG, La-5 and Bb-12 is an effective method for reducing the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in children.
- Sponsor: Parmelat Australia
Chronic consumption of flavanone-rich orange juice is associated with cognitive benefits: an 8-wk, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in healthy older adults, by Rebecca J Kean, Daniel J Lamport, Georgina F Dodd, Jayne E Freeman, Claire M Williams, Judi A Ellis, Laurie T Butler, and Jeremy PE Spencer. Am J Clin Nutr 2015; 101:506-514 doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.088518.
- Conclusion: Chronic daily consumption of flavanone-rich 100% orange juice over 8 wk is beneficial for cognitive function in healthy older adults.
- Sponsor: Partially funded by the State of Florida Government, Florida Department of Citrus. The authors report: “Florida Citrus helped designed [sic] the research. None of the authors reported a conflict of interest related to the study.”
Dairy consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: an updated meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies, by Li-Qiang Qin PhD, Jia-Ying Xu PhD, Shu-Fen Han PhD, Zeng-Li Zhang PhD, You-You Zhao PhD, Ignatius MY Szeto PhD. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2015 Mar;24(1):90-100. doi: 10.6133/apjcn.2015.24.1.09.
- Conclusion: This meta-analysis provided further evidence supporting the beneficial effect of dairy consumption on CVD. Low-fat dairy products and cheese may protect against stroke or CHD incidence.
- Sponsor: Nestec Ltd. (Nestlé R&D (China) Ltd. Two of the authors work for the company (to which I am not related).
In each of these cases, the sponsors got what they paid for. Recent sponsored studies have not come to conclusions contrary to the interests of the sponsor.