Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Oct 17 2023

US Right to Know reports on conflicts of interest in members of the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

I received an emailed press release from Gary Ruskin at US Right to Know: Report: Nearly Half of Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Have Conflicts of Interest.

Nine out of 20 members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee have conflicts of interest with food, pharmaceutical, or weight loss companies or industry groups with a stake in the outcome of the guidelines, according to a new report published today by the nonprofit public health research group U.S. Right to Know. An additional four members had possible conflicts of interest. The report found that Abbott, Novo Nordisk, National Dairy Council, Eli Lilly, and Weight Watchers (WW) International had ties to two or more DGAC members.

My immediate reaction: Only 9?  Last time, it was 19 out of 20.

Some background

The agencies responsible for the guidelines, HHS and USDA, issued aggregated disclosures of committee members relationships with industry. These treated real conflicts (Mars, Egg Nutrition Center, Novo Nordisk) with non-conflicts (National Science Foundation, Ohio Department of Medicaid) as if they were equivalent; they are not.

The sponsoring agencies have always argued that it is impossible to find nutrition experts without industry ties.  I disagree.  It’s just that people like me who are careful to avoid industry ties are considered too biased to serve on such committees (or so I’ve been told, repeatedly—I’ve not been asked to serve on a federal committee since Food Politics came out).

Do industry ties influence the report?  This is less of a problem than it used to be.  When I was on the DGAC in 1995, our committee set the research questions, did the research, wrote the research report, and wrote the actual Dietary Guidelines.  The agencies did light editing.

That changed in 2010 (administration of Bush II) when the agencies took over writing the guidelines.

In 2020, the agencies wrote the research questions, and they did so again this round.

This means that the only thing left for the DGAC to do is to review the research on questions determined by the agencies.

What is US Right to Know?

This group has initiated and “co-authored 15 peer-reviewed public health studies revealing how the food and beverage industries and industry-funded groups try to influence public opinion, scientific research, public health conferences and government policies related to diet and nutrition.”

A reader, Leah Murphy, wrote me questioning USRTK’s funding (see Appendix D in the report).

“Funding for the report was provided by Feed the Truth, a 501c3 non-profit that is funded by the Lubetzky Family Foundation.”

Daniel Lubetzky is the founder of KIND, a food company.  My point is that a food company funds the non-profit that funded the report. And that seems to undermine the credibility of their report and could qualify under their definition as a COI.

Ordinarily, I would agree that this could be a problem, but not in this instance.  In a previous post on Feed the Truth, I say:

 I was part of a team that suggested names for members of the group’s board.  Once Lubetzky set up the funding, he has had nothing further to do with the group.

From what I’ve been told, that is still true.  Feed the Truth does not have a website, in part because it is closing shop and not giving out more grants.  You can read about its earlier stages in Influence Watch,  Cause IQ, and Cision PR Newswire, but these are now out of date.

USRTK is doing important work and lots of it.  It’s worth following it.


Oct 16 2023

Industry funded studies of the week: Nuts and more nuts

I have so many of these waiting to be posted that I might as well do a bunch of them all at once.


The study: Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial on the Effects of Almonds on Facial Wrinkles and Pigmentation. Nutrients 2021, 13(3), 785;

Conclusion: “the daily consumption of almonds may contribute to the improvement of facial wrinkles and reduction of skin pigmentation among postmenopausal women with Fitzpatrick skin types I and II.”

Funder: Almond Board of California

Comment: Thanks to Lori Rothman for sending this one.  It’s not the first time I’ve posted an almonds-and-wrinkles study; here’s the other from 2021.   And please note.  It’s not just almonds.  Mangos do this too.  But the Almond Board is working hard on turning almonds into superfoods. Members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics were sent an announcement “Exciting new research investigates the link between almonds and these three key areas: Exercise recovery, prediabetes and skin health. That ad sends you to “Dietitian Tools” on the California Almonds website, where you can find a handy link to the study.

Here’s another one:

The study: Almond intake alters the acute plasma dihydroxy-octadecenoic acid (DiHOME) response to eccentric exercise.Front. Nutr., 09 January 2023  Volume 9 – 2022 |

Conclusions: “In general, the elevated post-exercise plasma levels of 12,13-DiHOME with almond intake support positive metabolic outcomes for adults engaging in unaccustomed eccentric exercise bouts. Other almond-related benefits for exercisers revealed in this study include reduced feelings of fatigue and tension, better leg-back strength during recovery, and decreased muscle damage during the first day of recovery.”

Funding: This work was supported by Almond Board of California, Modesto, CA. The funder had no role in the study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, the preparation of the manuscript, or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

Comment: That’s what they all say.


The study: Macadamia nut effects on cardiometabolic risk factors: a randomised trial  J Nutr Sci. 2023.

Conclusion: “Daily consumption of macadamia nuts does not lead [sic]to gains in weight or body fat under free-living conditions in overweight or obese adults; non-significant cholesterol lowering occurred without altering saturated fat intake of similar magnitude to cholesterol lowering seen with other nuts.”

Funding: This study was funded by Hort Innovation, Sydney, Australia (Project code MC17005).  J. J., K. O. and F. M. – None; J. S., S. R. and C. H. have received research funding through their institution from Hort Innovation, Sydney, Australia.  Note: “Hort Innovation is a grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation with the goal of creating value for horticulture growers and those across the horticulture supply chain. It invests more than $120 million in R&D, marketing and trade programs on behalf of industry.”


The study:  Urinary Phenolic Metabolites Associated with Peanut Consumption May Have a Beneficial Impact on Vascular Health Biomarkers. Antioxidants. 2023; 12(3):698.

Conclusion:  “the present study shows for the first time that regular peanut and peanut butter consumption could have a positive impact on vascular biomarkers in healthy young adults.”

Funding: This research was supported by funding from the Peanut Institute.

Tree Nuts

The study: Tree Nut and Peanut Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Advances in Nutrition.  May 04, 2023

Conclusion: “The findings of this review provide evidence of a combined effect of tree nuts and peanuts on a range of biomarkers to create an overall CVD risk reduction.”

Funding: “The findings of this review provide evidence of a combined effect of tree nuts and peanuts on a range of biomarkers to create an overall CVD risk reduction.”

Author disclosures: Two of the authors received previous funding from the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council or the California Walnut Commission.

Comment: If you are interested in doing nut research, trade associations will be happy to fund it.  But maybe only if the results come out the way the funder wants them to?

And another one on tree nuts.

The study: Mixed Tree Nuts, Cognition, and Gut Microbiota: A 4-Week, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Crossover Trial in Healthy Nonelderly Adults.  J. Nutrition.   VOLUME 152, ISSUE 12, P2778-2788, DECEMBER 2022.

Conclusions: “These findings indicate a positive effect of nut on cognition following only 4 wk of consumption in a healthy nonelderly sample, as well as upregulation of a microbial taxa associated with gut health.

Funding: This study was supported by funding from the INC (International Nut and Dried Fruit Council).


The California Walnut Commission and the USDA have put out a request for research proposals on the effects of walnuts on sleep and mental health (I learned about this one from a Tweet (oops, X).  Want to do it?  You can get up to $300,000.

Comment: I guess I don’t have much imagination but I cannot think of a reason why walnuts in particular would have anything to do with sleep or mental health.  But I’ll bet enterprising investigators can figure something out.  Stay tuned on this one.

Overall comment

My point about all of these studies is that you can usually predict who paid for them by their titles and if you know who paid for them, you can pretty well predict what they will find.  Nut trade associations want you to eat more nuts, preferably the kind they represent.  Nuts are just fine for health, but watch the calories.  And do not expect miracles—ever—from eating just one healthy food.

Tags: ,
Oct 13 2023

Weekend thinking: How much of your income do you spend for food?

The answer: it depends on how much money you have.

USDA’s Economic Research Service has just issued a chart on how much countries throughot the world spend on food on average as a percent of their total expenditures.

As a general rule:

As incomes rise with economic development and urbanization, the share of income spent on food tends to fall while discretionary spending on household goods, education, medical services, and recreation tends to increase.

Rich countries like ours spend less than 10% of our incomes on food—on average.

But Americans with lower incomes spend more than 30% on food.Th

This is why food assistance needs to include income assistance as a matter of policy, especially because people are having to spend more and more on food, even after adjusting for inflation.

Oct 12 2023

Jaw-dropping food product of the season: pumpkin latte

Not being a particular fan of Dunkin’ Donuts, I somehow missed this astonishing drink.

But the esteemed journalist Eric Schlosser, sent me a link to this video tweet (oops, X).

I did not believe it, but excellent journalist that he is, Eric sent me the DUNKIN’ NUTRITION evidence.  Go to page 6 and check out the highlighted item: 930 calories and 167 grams of added sugars (but see NOTE below)

No, you could not make this up.

930 calories, by the way, is about half of what many people need in a day.

Advice: share this with friends—plural.

NOTE: a sharp eyed reader points out that it’s not a pumpkin latte; it’s a large pumpkin swirl frozen coffee with whole milk.  Whatever.

Oct 11 2023

What’s up with the Kellogg split?

If Kellogg’s splitting into two companies and changing its business model makes no sense to you, join the crowd.

Apparently, Kellogg is not selling enough cereal to keep its stockholders happy: ready-to-eat cereal unit sales declined in both 2021 and 2022 by roughly 8.5% and 3.5%,

To try to fix this, Kellogg has split its North American company into two new companies.

Somebody has to explain to me why this will make a difference.

  • More focused attention on cereals?
  • Hope that some bigger company will buy one of these?
  • Stock splits for investors?

Will this do anything for Kellogg’s customer base?  Seems doubtful, but let’s wait and see.

Stay tuned.

Oct 10 2023

The new obesity drugs: a threat to the food industry?

I can hardly believe this, and had to laugh when I read all the articles last week about how worried the food industry is about the new obesity drugs.

Imagine: if the drugs really do reduce appetite and interest in food—horror of horrors—people might eat less.

Eating less, as I have pointed out repeatedly, is very bad for the food business.

In Food Politics, I explained how the fundamental purpose of  food companies is to get you to eat more food, not less.

Beginning in the early 1980s, food companies did a better job of creating an “eat more” food environment.

People responded to this environment by eating more calories—lots more—and way more than enough to account for the rising prevalence of overweight and obesity.  Evidence?   See my book with Mal Nesheim, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics.

When I am at my most cynical, I ask this question: What industry might benefit if people ate more healthfully?

I am hard pressed to think of any—certainly not the food, diet, or diet-drug industries (Novo Nordisk, maker of the semaglutide drug, Wegovy, now makes more than the gross domestic product of Denmark).

The only exception I can think of is not-for-profit HMO’s like Kaiser Permanente, which do better if their patients are healthier (and have no excuse for not paying their workers better).

Anything that helps people eat less and more healthfully is bad news for the food industry, and especially for companies making ultra-processed junk food.

No wonder companies are worried.

Here’s my collection from last week (with thanks to Lisa Young and Michele Simon for making sure I saw these articles):

Oct 9 2023

Industry funded study of the week: Cheese prevents dementia!

It was hard to miss this headline in Dairy Reporter: “Cheese intake could lower risk of dementia, study suggests.”

No kidding?  I wonder who paid for this?

To its credit, the article did full disclosure:

The study was conducted as part of broader research commissioned by Japanese dairy major Meiji Co., Ltd. and part-funded by the company.

I went right to it.

The study: Kim H, Osuka Y, Kojima N, Sasai H, Nakamura K, Oba C, Sasaki M, Suzuki T. Inverse Association between Cheese Consumption and Lower Cognitive Function in Japanese Community-Dwelling Older Adults Based on a Cross-Sectional Study. Nutrients. 2023; 15(14):3181.

Purpose: “We investigated whether cheese intake is associated with lower cognitive function (LCF) in community-dwelling older adults.”

Method: “This cross-sectional study included 1503 adults aged over 65 years. The analyzed data were obtained through face-to-face interviews and functional ability measurement.”

Results: Cheese intake, along with usual walking speed and calf circumference to be significant factors associated with LCF.

Conclusions: Cheese intake is inversely associated with lower cognitive function.

Funding: This study was funded by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development , the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, and Meiji Co., Ltd.

Conflicts of Interest: “This study was conducted as a part of the ‘Epidemiology study of the relationship between dairy products intake and cognitive function’ commissioned by Meiji Co., Ltd. T.S. holds the position of Commissioned Research Chair, and H.K. is a member of the Commissioned Research group. K.N., C.O., and M.S. are employees of Meiji Co., Ltd. The other authors declare no conflict of interest. The funding sponsors had no role in the execution, analysis, or interpretation of the data or the writing of the manuscript.

Comment: Meiji Holdings Co Ltd (Meiji) 

is a manufacturer and distributor of dairy products, confectionery, and nutritional products. The company’s product portfolio comprises milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, chocolates, and gummy candies. The company also provides beauty supplements, protein products, nutritional products, vaccines, antibacterial agents, and generic drugs. The company markets its products under Meiji, Essel, Oishii Gyunyu, DepromeL, Reflex, Kaju Gummy, Kinoko no Yama, Galbo, Amino Collagen, Savas, Sycrest, Streptomycin, Kanamycin, Depromel, and Metact brand names…Meiji is headquartered in Chuo-Ku, Tokyo, Japan.

Five of the authors work for the company.

Does eating cheese reduce the risk of dementia?  You read the paper and decide.  I think you can’t make this stuff up.

Oct 6 2023

Weekend reading: the cost of growing Romaine lettuce in California

Every now and then I run across a report about something I know absolutely nothing about but wish I did, and this is one of them—an analysis from the University of California on Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Romaine Hearts Lettuce.

I’m particularly interested in Romaine because it is one of those foods that turns up frequently in food poisoning incidents.  Why?  Because in California and Arizona it is often grown in close proximity to Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), as shown in the Netflix film, Poisoned, in which I appear briefly.

Bill Marler, the lawyer featured in the film, does not eat bagged Romaine.  Neither do I.

The cost analysis, which concludes that it takes about $17,000 an acre to produce Romaine, does not factor in fmeasures to assure safety.

But what it does consider is impressive.  Here is just the first part of a Table that continues well into another page.

I would not have guessed.

I grow Romaine lettuce in pots on my Manhattan terrace.  All I pay for is seeds.  I’ve never gotten sick from eating it.

Apparently, industrial lettuce is an entirely different matter.

Enjoy the weekend!