by Marion Nestle
Sep 10 2015

Industry-funded studies with results that do NOT favor the sponsor! The score since March: 50:3

Since mid-March, I’ve been collecting research studies funded by food companies or trade associations, and dividing them into those that come out with results favorable to the sponsor (50 so far–this is a corrected number) and those that do not (as of today, 3).

As always, if you run across others, please send.

A reader, Cole Adam, sent me this study on dark chocolate funded by a Finnish company that makes chocolate products.

Dark chocolate and reduced snack consumption in mildly hypertensive adults: an intervention study.  Raika Koli, Klaus Köhler, Elina Tonteri, Juha Peltonen, Heikki Tikkanen and Mikael Fogelholm.  Nutrition Journal 2015, 14:84  doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0075-3

  • Results: Daily consumption of dark chocolate had no effects on 24 h blood pressure, resting blood pressure…or arterial stiffness.  Weight was reduced by 1.0 ± 2.2 kg during the control (reduced snack only) period, but was unchanged while eating chocolate (p < 0.027 between the treatments).
  • Conclusion:  …inclusion of 49 g dark chocolate daily as part of a diet of mildly hypertensive participants had no significant effects on cardiovascular risk factors during 8 wks.  Apart from a small effect on body weight (dark chocolate seemingly prevented a slight decrease in body weight during the control period), no other negative effects were observed.
  • Funding:  This work was funded by Oy Karl Fazer Ab. Authors declare no competing interests regarding this study.  [Oy Karl Fazer Ab sells bakery, biscuit, and confectionery products in Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and internationally]

Several points to note about this study:

  • Eating 49 grams (just under 2 ounces) of dark chocolate a day may be fun, but it is not going to reduce your blood pressure.
  • Eating 49 grams of dark chocolate a day makes weight loss more difficult.
  • The authors do not view corporate funding as introducing competing interests.  OK.  Maybe not in this case, but this is a rare exception.

Another reader, who prefers to remain anonymous, sent this one:

Milk intake is not associated with low risk of diabetes or overweight-obesity: a Mendelian randomization study in 97,811 Danish individualsHelle KM Bergholdt, Børge G Nordestgaard, and Christina Ellervik.  Am J Clin Nutr 2015;102:487–96. 

  • Conclusions: 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   individuals without milk intake likely is explained by collider stratification bias.
  • Conflict: HKMB’s PhD project was partly funded by the Research Unit at Naestved Hospital, the Danish Dairy Research Foundation, and the Regional Research Unit in Region Zealand. [The population studies were funded by a long list of government agencies, health organizations, and foundations].
  • Comment: This study says that high milk intake is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, although it explains it away.  The Danish dairy industry paid for part of the first author’s dissertation research.  It looks like most of the funding came from independent sources, so this one is a bit of a stretch, but to be super scrupulous let’s count it as industry-funded.

NOTE: All three “negative” studies I’ve posted since March were funded by international food companies (the previous one was funded by the Danish Dairy Research Foundation).