by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Fruit

Jun 3 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: blueberries again

I love blueberries and grow two different kinds on my 12th-floor Manhattan terrace, both delicious if I can get to them before the voracious birds do.

I wish the blueberry industry could just accept delicious and leave it at that, but no such luck.  It is desperate to get research it can use to promote blueberries as a superfruit (I wrote about the history of blueberry-funded research in Unsavory Truth).

Here’s the latest.

The study: Blueberries improve biomarkers of cardiometabolic function in participants with metabolic syndrome—results from a 6-month, double-blind, randomized controlled trial.  Peter J Curtis, et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2019;109:1535–1545.

Method: Participants were fed powdered blueberries equivalent to a half or full cup a day, compared to placebo.

Conclusions: Despite insulin resistance remaining unchanged we show, to our knowledge, the first sustained improvements in vascular function, lipid status, and underlying NO [nitric oxide] bioactivity following 1cup blueberries/d. With effect sizes predictive of 12–15% reductions in CVD risk, blueberries should be included in dietary strategies to reduce individual and population CVD risk.

Funder: Supported by the US Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC) with oversight from the USDA and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC, UK). AC and ERB both act as advisors to the USHBC grant committee. The funders of the study had no role in study design, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation, or writing of the report.

Comment: The press picked this one up:  “Study: Blueberries benefit heart health.”  This study used powdered blueberries.  Trust me, the fresh ones are much better.  You can tell this is an industry-funded study because the published study is open access, which somebody has to pay for—a clue that it is about marketing.  And what about the comment that funders had no influence?  They didn’t have to.  The study did not compare blueberries to any other fruits.  The science here provides some interesting information about how anthocyanins in this fruit might work, but wouldn’t they work the same way in any other fruit?  Are blueberries the only fruit that contains these particular anthocyanins?   This questions suggest that this study is not about the science, it is about demonstrating that there is something special about blueberries.  Dietary advice?  Eat whatever fruits you like.  And vegetables.  And nuts.  They all have something good about them.

 

May 8 2019

The number of cherries in pie: a regulatory priority?

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear things like this.  According to a report from the Associated Press, the FDA plans to follow the Trump administration’s deregulaory agenda by getting rid of the standard of identity rules for frozen cherry pies.

The rules currently require commercial frozen cherry pies to be filled with “mature, pitted, stemmed cherries that are fresh, frozen, and/or canned,” to contain at least 25% cherries by weight, and to have no more than 15% of the cherries with blemishes.

In October, then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb sent out this tweet.

In a June email, the FDA said it planned to revoke the standard for frozen cherry pies in April. It has kept its word.

My questions:

  • Without the standard of identity, are we likely to have more or fewer cherries in frozen cherry pie?  [Want to make a bet?  I’m guessing fewer].
  • What lobbying group got the FDA to do this, and why did the FDA agree?
  • Did ex-Commissioner Gottlieb really consider this a top priority for FDA? [If so, we are in even worse trouble than even I imagined].

I’m stuck on regulatory priority.  Food safety, anyone?

As for the origins of the cherry pie count, see this excellent piece in the Washington Post by historian Xaq Frohlich.

 

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Feb 18 2019

Industry-sponsored research of the week: Cherries

In my book, Unsavory Truth, I mention that I often receive letters from food trade associations requesting research proposals aimed at proving the benefits of their products.

I point out that there is a big difference between calling for research to prove benefits, and open-ended basic research aimed at discovering what the actual effects might be.

Here is a delicious example from the Cherry Research Committee of the Cherry Marketing Institute:

All proposed research should be hypothesis-driven, and would strive to establish an association or to document a direct relationship between the consumption of tart cherry phytonutrients (when consumed as whole tart cherries or processed tart cherry products) and reduced risk, prevention, or improved treatment of a disease or condition of significant public interest. The study design should also examine a possible
cellular/molecular mechanism of the treatment effects.

And here’s an example of cherry-benefit research in action:

Title: Effects of Tart Cherry Juice on Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Stress in Older Adults.  Chai SCDavis KZhang ZZha LKirschner KF.  Nutrients. 2019 Jan 22;11(2). 

Conclusion: “The present study suggests that the ability of tart cherry juice to reduce systolic BP [blood pressure] and LDL cholesterol [the bad kind], in part, may be due to its anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Larger and longer follow-up studies are needed to confirm these findings.”

Grant support: Cherry Research Committee of the Cherry Marketing Institute

Comment:  As the press release explains:

Montmorency tart cherry juice helped lower systolic blood pressure and LDL or “bad” cholesterol in older adults by reducing certain biomarkers of inflammation and oxidative stress in older adults, according to a new study published in Nutrients. Larger and longer follow-up studies are needed to confirm these findings.

I posted another cherry-funded study early in December.

I love cherries.  They are delicious, but this is marketing research, not basic science.

…Thanks to Casey Palmer for sending all this.