by Marion Nestle
Nov 28 2022

Industry-funded study of the week: a rare negative outcome

Beyond Meat is taking a beating these days, and this study only adds to its  woes.

Assessing the effects of alternative plant-based meats v. animal meats on biomarkers of inflammation: a secondary analysis of the SWAP-MEAT randomized crossover trial.  Crimarco A, Landry MJ, Carter MM, Gardner CD.  J Nutr Sci.  2022;11:e82.  doi:10.1017/jns.2022.84

Abstract: Alternative plant-based meats have grown in popularity with consumers recently and researchers are examining the potential health effects, or risks, from
consuming these products…the purpose of this work was to conduct a secondary analysis of…a randomised crossover trial that involved generally healthy adults eating 2 or more servings of plant-based meats per day for 8 weeks (i.e. Plant phase) followed by 2 or more servings of animal meats per day for 8 weeks (i.e. Animal phase). Results of linear mixed-effects models indicated only 4 out of 92 biomarkers reached statistical significance. The results were contrary to our hypothesis, since we expected relative improvements in biomarkers of inflammation from the plant-based meats.

Conflicts of interest: “Gardner [the senior author] received gift funding from Beyond Meat which was used to conduct the original research study.”

Comment:  This is a follow up to the original research, which I wrote about previously.  That study found a positive result:

A diet that includes an average of two servings of plant-based meat alternatives lowers some cardiovascular risk factors compared with a diet that instead includes the same amount of animal meat…This study found several beneficial effects and no adverse effects from the consumption of plant-based meats.

The investigators tested the effects of substituting Beyond Meat for animal meats on 92 biomarkers of inflammation.  They found hardly any to be improved by the Beyond Meat substitution.

This disappointed the investigators but I’ll bet it disappointed Beyond Meat even more.

This study was not specifically funded by Beyond Meat.

This work was supported by Stanford University’s Precision Health and Integrated Diagnostics Center (PHIND) and in part by a training grant from the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [T32 HL007034].

It is consistent with the overall observation that industry-funded research tends to find results favorable to the sponsor’s interest; independently funded research can go either way.  See my book, Unsavory Truth, for details and references.

Thanks to Stephen Zwick for sending this one.


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