by Marion Nestle

Search results: journal nature

Apr 29 2019

A personal memoir of sorts

I was pleased to be invited to contribute to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition’s “crystal ball” series:

The Crystal Ball Series is a collection of papers from prominent figures in the nutrition field. Through this collection the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition hopes to profile the paths of the eminent individuals [sic] nutrition journey; how they came to it and what have their contributions to nutrition science been. In addition, we ask them to share what they would like to see done now, where they see their area heading, the potential pitfalls, and over all what do they see in their crystal ball for the future of nutrition research.

Here’s my response, titled “A Food lover’s love of nutrition science, policy, and politics.”

Enjoy!

Apr 22 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: Coca-Cola again

Here is a summary of another funded study with results the funder must love.

Joint associations between weekday and weekend physical activity or sedentary time and childhood obesity.  Li N, and 19 additional authors for the ISCOLE Research Group. International Journal of Obesity (2019) 43:691–700.

Conclusions: Lower levels of MVPA [moderate to vigorous physical activity] or higher levels of sedentary time on either weekdays or weekend were associated with increased odds of obesity in 9–11 year old children in 12 countries.

Funding: The International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle and the Environment (ISCOLE) was funded by The Coca-Cola Company… With the exception of requiring that the study be global in nature, the funder had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; and preparation, review or approval of the manuscript.

Comment: This is another paper from the ISCOLE study funded by Coca-Cola, that seems to be aimed at casting doubt on the idea that sugary beverages might promote weight gain.  Instead, these results suggest that physical activity is a more important factor.  Of course physical activity is important for health, but doesn’t expend nearly as many calories as is usually needed to compensate for soft drink intake.

I learned about this study from a Weighty Matters blog post by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, who runs a weight management center in Ottawa.  In his view, the ISCOLE study ignores evidence that childhood obesity is a determinant of physical activity, “not the other way around.”

He also questions the “no influence” statement in the funding disclosure, on the basis of

emails between ISCOLE investigators and Coca-Cola that not surprisingly suggests that these relationships have the very real potential to influence the framing of results even if funders [are] not involved in study design.

As I discuss in Unsavory Truth, the influence of food-industry funders appears to occur at an unconscious level; investigators do not recognize the influence and typically deny it.

As I also discuss in that book, Coca-Cola generously funded the ISCOLE study some years ago.  It has since changed its policy on research funding.

Mar 25 2019

Industry-influenced study of the week: sugars v. calories

Unsavory Truth came out late last year, but I’m following up by posting recent examples of the issues it covers.  Here, for example, is a recent study that caught my eye:

The role of dietary sugars in health: molecular composition or just calories?  Philip Prinz. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2019).

A big argument in nutrition right now is whether the metabolic dysfunction that results from excessive consumption of sugars is due to the sugars themselves or to the calories they produce (or, I suppose, to both).

The author who attempted to answer this question conducted a lengthy and detailed review of research on the effects of sugars on obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic conditions .  His conclusion:

Current scientific evidence does not support the conclusion that dietary sugars themselves are detrimental to human health and the cause of obesity as well as NCDs [non-communicable— chronic—diseases]. Data from human studies clearly shows that it is the excess amount of calories, also consumed in form of dietary sugars, that promotes obesity and with that favors NCDs. For sucrose, further research is needed in order to evaluate the relevance of its molecular composition, especially in comparison with other macronutrients.

In other words, you don’t have to worry about sugars; just don’t overeat anything.

So, who paid for this?

The paper provides no disclosures of funding or conflicted interests.

But if you click on Philip Prinz, you will see that he is with the Department of Nutritional Sciences, German Sugar Association, Berlin, Germany

Comment

My interpretation of this literature generally favors calories (see my book with Malden Nesheim, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics).  As I see it, when it comes to weight gain, how much you eat matters more than what you eat, especially if your diet is reasonably healthy.

But I would be much more confident in conclusions like these if they came from a researcher whose salary did not depend on producing desirable results for a sugar association.

And everybody would be better off eating less sugar, for reasons of nutritional health, if not necessarily weight.

Jan 24 2019

Palm oil politics: corporate effects on health

The World Health Organization is about to publish a report on how the palm oil industry is promoting obesity and chronic disease as well as environmental degradation as integral parts of its business model.

The draft report gets right to the point.

We highlight the industry’s mutually profitable relationship with the processed food industry and its impact on human and planetary health, including detrimental cultivation practices that are linked to respiratory illnesses, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and pollution. This analysis illustrates many parallels to the contested nature of practices adopted by the alcohol and tobacco industries.

The research behind the report supports the analytical framework for examining industry’s effects on health.

The report documents how the palm oil industry, working with the food industry, acts to maximize profits at the expense of health and the environment, through marketing, supply chain management, lobbying, and corporate “citizenship.”

The report calls for

  • More research on the effects of palm oil on health
  • Actions to mitigate industry influences to protect producers and sellers from needed regulations
  • Use of the Sustainable Development Goals to aid these actions

You don’t get why palm oil raises health and environmental concerns?  Read this.  Now.

 

Nov 26 2018

Industry-funded study of the week: beer hops improves Alzheimer’s (in mice, anyway)

Even though my book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eatis now published, I’m still collecting particularly entertaining examples of industry-funded research that should trigger the question, “Guess who paid for this?”

Matured Hop-Derived Bitter Components in Beer Improve Hippocampus-Dependent Memory Through Activation of the Vagus Nerve, by Tatsuhiro AyabeRena OhyaYoshimasa TaniguchiKazutoshi ShindoKeiji Kondo & Yasuhisa Ano .  Scientific Reports, 2018; 8: 15372.

Background: Our group has focused on the constituents of beer, and we found that iso-α-acids, major bitter components in beer derived from hops (Humulus lupulus L.), improve cognitive impairment in an Alzheimer’s disease (AD) mouse model and high fat diet-induced obese mice.

Conclusion: Vagus nerve activation by the intake of food materials including MHBA [matured hop bitter acids] may be a safe and effective approach for improving cognitive function.

Competing Interests: T.A., R.O., Y.T., K.K. and Y.A. are employed by Kirin Co., Ltd. The authors declare no other competing interests with this manuscript.

[Thanks to Eric Bardot and Maggie Tauranac for sending this excellent example}.

 

Oct 26 2018

Weekend reading: The Poison Squad

Deborah Blum.  The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.  Penguin Press, 2018.  

Image result for The Poison Squad: One Chemist's

I already had received my copy of this book when Felicity Lawrence reviewed it in Nature along with my new book, Unsavory Truth.  What I loved about the review was Lawrence’s comment that I “could make a fair claim to [Harvey] Wiley’s mantle today…The book is a remorseless dissection of the corruption of science by industry.”

But enough about me.  Blum’s book is a clear, wonderfully written account of the political opposition faced by Harvey Washington Wiley, the head of the USDA’s Bureau of Chemistry (later, the FDA) who relentlessly lobbied his bosses, presidents, and the public to insist that food companies produce food safely.

If you cannot understand why there are still so many outbreaks of foodborne illness and why so many foods are still having to be recalled, this book is a revelation.

Blum, who directs the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT, is terrific at explaining the complex politics that affected Wiley’s work.

I particularly appreciated her chapter on the food safety laws passed in 1906.  Their passage came about, in part, as a result of Upton Sinclair’s publication of The Jungle, a book that exposed the horribly unsanitary and dangerous conditions of the Chicago stockyards.

Try to imagine something like this happening today: the book came out early in January.  By July, Congress had passed food safety laws.  Blum’s chapter explains how that happened.  Those events were news to me.

Much else in the book will also be news, even to people who follow food safety issues closely—the intensity of the opposition to everything that Wiley was trying to do.

Wiley was watching out for the disenfranchised, and in moral terms:

Wiley added that food quality and safety represented not only good science but also moral decision-making.  The wealthy, he pointed out, could easily afford fresh food and well-made condiments.  The trade in cheap, chemically enhanced imitations catered to the poor.  If the country could work to standardize good food, then it also would be promoting good health for all.  “Whenever a food is debased in order to make it cheap, the laboring man pays more for any given nourishment than the rich man does who buys the pure food,” he pointed out. [p. 195]

We need leadership like that today.

I especially like the way Blum ends the book:

Of we are to continue moving in a direction that preserves what’s best in this country, we need not romanticize the past but we must learn from what it tells us about our earlier mistakes.  The people who fought to correct those long-ago errors still have lessons to share.  The story of Harvey Washington Wiley, at his fierce and fearless best, should remind us that such crusaders are necessary in the fight.  That the fight for consumer protection may never end.  lBut if it does, if that long-awaited final victory is achieved, it will be because we, like Wiley, refused to give up. [p. 291]

Amen to that.

 

 

Mar 13 2018

Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat

For review copies, interviews, etc, contact Kelsey Odorczyk at Basic Books: Kelsey.Odorczyk@hbgusa.com

For information about the book, see Basic Books/Hachette,  IndieBound,  Amazon

For reviews and media accounts, scroll down.

Portuguese translation, Elefante Editora, 2019:

Summary

Is chocolate heart-healthy? Does yogurt prevent type 2 diabetes? Do pomegranates help cheat death? News headlines bombard us with such amazing claims. They are reported as science, and have dramatic effects on what we eat.  Yet, as food expert Marion Nestle explains, these studies are more about marketing than science; they are often paid for by the companies and trade associations that sell those foods. Whether it’s a Coca-Cola-backed study hailing light exercise as a calorie neutralizer, claims for beef as a health food, or a report from investigators paid by a blueberry trade group concluding that this fruit prevents erectile dysfunction, every corner of the food industry knows how to turn conflicted research into big profit. As Nestle argues, it’s time to put public health first. Written with unmatched rigor and insight, Unsavory Truth reveals how the food industry manipulates nutrition science—and suggests what we can do about it.

Blurbs

“What happens when one of the country’s great nutrition investigators follows the money in food and science? You get this riveting, provocatively-written book, which deftly explores how the processed food industry has deepened our dependence on its products by sponsoring and manipulating food research for decades. This book should be read by anyone who has been seduced by the words, ‘New study shows…’—which is all of us.”  —Michael Moss, author of Salt Sugar Fat

“Marion Nestle is a tireless warrior for public health, and her meticulous research and irrefutable arguments are desperately needed right now. This book, as frightening as it is, compels us to discover where true health begins: nutrition starts in the ground, with real food that is sustainably grown, eaten in season, and alive.”  —Alice Waters, founder, owner, and executive chef of Chez Panisse

 “In clear, concise language, Marion Nestle details the many ways our ideas about what to eat are being manipulated by Big Food.  If you want to make better choices, read this book.”  —Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet Magazine

 “Marion Nestle is a national treasure.  She has the courage to take on multinational corporations and the wisdom to separate the facts from the spin.  If you care about our food system and the health of your family, Unsavory Truth is essential reading.”  —Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

“Marion Nestle has been a guiding light for sanity, credibility, and justice in food and nutrition for decades; she stands alone in her field. In Unsavory Truth, she exposes the awful deceptions practiced on eaters by manipulative food companies using ‘scientific research’ try to make themselves look good.”  —Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything

 “Marion Nestle is a truth-teller in a world awash with nutrition lies of one kind and another. In this scintillating and eye-opening book, Nestle reveals how much of our confusion about food in modern times has been spread by the food industry itself, which passes off marketing as science and funds ‘research’ designed to show that its products are harmless. Unsavory Truth is essential reading for anyone in search of hard facts about what to eat.”  —Bee Wilson, author of First Bite and Consider the Fork

Reviews and media

2019

June 6  Review in American Journal of Public Health 2019;109(7):952-953.

Mar 11  Interview with VegSource with Jeff Nelson

Mar 5  TVO (Canada) The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Battling bias in nutrition research.  Also on YouTube.

Feb 17 Cover story based on Unsavory Truth, San Francisco Chronicle: “The myth-making of food

Feb 5  KQED San Francisco, Michael Krasny’s Forum

Feb 2  Sarah Boseley reviews Unsavory Truth in The Lancet

Jan/Feb  Nutrition Action Healthletter: Peter Lurie’s editorial

Jan 25  Interview with Holly Friend of LS:N Global

Jan 22  KPFK radio interview , Feminist Magazine with Lynn Harris Ballen

Jan 21  Cookery by the Book, podcast with Suzy Chase

Jan 16  Kara Goldin’s podcast on Unstoppable, Unsavory Truth

2018

Dec 21 The Hagstrom Report’s five best ag books of 2018

Dec 19  Podcast with Max Lugavere, The Genius Life Episode 39 (iTunes), on Unsavory Truth

Dec 17  Radio interview with Rose Aguilar, KALW San Francisco on Unsavory Truth

Dec 14 Podcast review by Narsai David, KCBS

Dec 13  Lecture on Unsavory Truth (video) at Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center

Dec 13  Online interview at PLoS Blog

Dec 12  Podcast with Wooden Teeth

Dec 6  NYU Journalism Kavli Conversation on Science Communication with Paul Greenberg, moderated by Robert Lee Hotz

Dec 3  Interview (podcast) with Bhavani Jaroff of iEat Green

Nov 30  Conor Purcell interview for Undark’s Five Questions

Nov 29 Paul Thacker on Unsavory Truth in the BMJ

Nov 28  Podcast interview with Monica Eng on Unsavory Truth: Chewing episode 55

Nov 26  Lisa Held on Unsavory Truth, Edible Manhattan

Nov 19  Interview with Gabrielle Lipton, Landscape News

Nov 18  Video of interview with Dean Malcolm Clemens, Forum at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco (audio file).

Nov 15  Review by Gavin Wren, Medium.com

Nov 15  Video of keynote at launch of UCSF Food Industry Documents Library (my talk is in Part I: 14:30)

Nov 12  Jennifer Bowden on Unsavory Truth in New Zealand’s The Listener.

Nov 12  Interview with Jesse Mulligan, Radio New Zealand

Nov 10  Review in New Scientist

Nov 7  Podcast interview with The Potter Report

Nov 7  A. Pawlowski.  What are superfoods?  The truth about blueberries, dark chocolate and pomegranate.  Today.

Nov 6  Interview with Paul Thacker.  Tonic.

Nov 4  Lorin Fries.  Who decides what you eat?  (Hint: it’s not only you).  Forbes.

Nov 1  Review in New York Journal of Books

Oct 31 Review from New York Magazine’s The Cut

Oct 31  Interview with Julia Belluz in Vox

Oct 30  Excerpt from Unsavory Truth on Medium.com: “When Big Soda Started Stalking Me”

Oct 30  NPR radio interview with Brian Lehrer

Oct 30 Yoni Freedhoff, Weighty Matters.

Oct 30  Jane Brody.  Confused by nutrition research?  New York Times, Science section.

Oct 29  RT America video interview on Boom Bust about Unsavory Truth.

Oct 28  Hailey Eber. How the food industry fooled us into eating junk.  New York Post, 42-43.

Oct 23  Nestle M.  Superfoods are a marketing ploy (excerpt).  The Atlantic .

Oct 22  Àlex Pérez.  Una verdad desagradable no vende.  ElPiscolabis (Spain).

Oct 18 Nature Magazine (2018;562:334-335): Felicity Lawrence reviews Deborah Blum’s The Poison Squad and Unsavory Truth as “Poisoned Platefuls.”  “Nestle…could make a fair claim to [Harvey] Wiley’s mantle today…The book is a remorseless dissection of the corruption of science by industry.”

Oct 18  Interview with Maggie Tauranac on Unsavory Truth, FoodPrint

Oct 16 Podcast with Danielle Nierenberg on Unsavory Truth and other matters

Oct 2  Science Magazine: “There is indeed something rotten in the state of dietary science, but books like this show us that we consumers also hold a great deal of power.”

Sept 25 La Stampa (Italy): “I cibi di lunga vita sono illusori e troppi sponsor li promuovono.” (The newspaper clip).

Sept 24  Publishers Weekly: ” a groundbreaking look at how food corporations influence nutrition research and public policy.”

Aug 13 Booklist: “This well-documented, accessible venture makes a compelling argument.”

Aug 1  Kirkus: “Nestle proves yet again that she is a unique, valuable voice for engaged food consumers.”

July 17  Phil Lempert’s Lempert Report: Get ready for a new era of transparency (video)

July 9  David Wineberg, “Nutrition: conflict of interest as a career,” Medium.com.

Feb 12 Finnish Public Radio interview about Unsavory Truth (Google Translate, English)

Jan 31 Profile in New Scientist: The Unpalatable Truth about Your Favorite foods

Tweets (Highly Selected)

Michael Pollan, October 30

Ing Fei Chen, October 16:  Undark

Yoni Freedhoff, October 7: his mentions

Basic Books, October 2: Mark Bittman blurb

Basic Books, September 25: Ruth Reichl blurb

Basic Books, September 6: Eric Schlosser blurb

Basic Books, August 28: Alice Waters blurb

Michael Pollan, August 18: “This is a terrific and eye-opening book”

Bee Wilson, August 17: “I feel lucky to have an advance copy …A great piece of investigative writing.”

Basic Books, August 17: Bee Wilson blurb

Aug 8 2016

Food products with health claims: only marginally better (no surprise)

A recent study did something useful.  It examined the nutritional quality of more than 2000 foods with or without health-related claims.

As compared with food products without health claims, foods with health claims had, on average, per serving:

  • 29 fewer calories
  • 3 grams less sugar
  • 2 grams less saturated fat
  • 842 mg less sodium
  • 0.8 grams more fiber

The authors conclude:

Foods carrying health-related claims have marginally better nutrition profiles than those that do not carry claims…It is unclear whether these relatively small differences have significant impacts on health.

Unclear?  Most of these are barely measurable.  Only the sodium reduction might help.

This study confirms the following:

  • Health claims on food packages are not about health; they are about marketing.
  • Just because a food product is slightly better for you does not necessarily mean that it is a good choice.