I’m on a panel for the NYAS’s conference on Conflicts of Interest in Healthcare: Opportunities for Self-Reflection and Action, June 24-25. Location: 7 World Trade Center. 250 Greenwich St, 40th Floor. Information and registration are here. My panel is on the 25th at 10:45 a.m. , Session VI: Hot topic discussion: getting to the truth in nutrition science. Other panelists are Mona Calvo fro Penn State, Mehmood Khan from Life Biosciences, and Linda Van Horn from Northwestern. Moderator is Julia Belluz from Vox.
Tone deaf industry-funded study of the week: avocados and cognition
I don’t know about you but I’m having a hard time these days paying attention to anything other than Coronavirus. Everything else seems irrelevant.
This announcement seems particularly tone deaf.
On March 18, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture put this as its most important story of the day: “Daily Avocado Consumption Improves Attention in Overweight and Obese Persons”
It refers to a study jointly funded by USDA and Haas Avocado Board: “Effects of 12-week avocado consumption on cognitive function among adults with overweight and obesity.” Edwards CG, et al. International Journal of Psychophysiology. 2020;148:13-24.
The study’s predictable conclusion: “Daily avocado intake over 12 weeks, after controlling for covariates, improved attentional inhibition and increased serum lutein concentrations among adults with overweight and obesity.” This was predictable because industry-funded studies almost invariably come out the way their funder hoped they would (what a coincidence!).
In this case, the Abstract goes on to say: “However, the cognitive benefits were independent of changes in lutein concentrations.”
Really? If lutein has nothing to do with cognition, why make such a big deal of it, as is done on the Hass Avocado Board website.
Don’t get me wrong. I love avocados. But I will never understand why it takes this kind of “science” to sell them. I put science in quotes because this kind of industry-funded research is really about marketing. USDA co-sponsors such research through its marketing programs.
This kind of self-serving marketing seems even more inappropriate right now. At least to me.
[Thanks to Hugh Joseph for sending the NIFA annoouncement].