by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sponsored-research

Jun 24 2024

Industry-funded studies of the week: Grapes

The California Table Grape Commission funds lots of research for an explicit purpose: “to help discover how and why grapes are beneficial to health.”

It lengthy list of funded projects is here.  Published studies are here.

You want to do one of these studies?  Let them know here.

Grape research is conducted using a freeze-dried table grape powder, designed to facilitate reproducible data and to provide researchers with a grape sample that is available year-round. Additionally, a grape powder placebo is made available.

Comment: If you want funding, you need to design your study to show benefits.  The Commission is unlikely to risk funding proposals unlikely to show benefits.  [Thanks to David Michaels for sending this one].

And Charles Platkin sent me the press release for one of the Commission’s funded studies: Hu, W., Zheng, R., Feng, Y., Tan, D., Chung-Tsing, G.C., Su, X., and Kim, J.E. (2023). Impacts of regular consumption of grapes on macular pigment accumulation in Singapore older adults: a randomized, controlled trial. Food Funct. 14, 8321-8330. Doi: 10.1039/d3fo02105j.  The abstract is here.

Conclusions: Regular intake of grapes may improve eye health in Singapore older adults, specifically in augmenting MPOD, which can be explained by an increase in plasma total antioxidant capacity and phenolic content, and the downregulation of AGEs.

I’m all for eating grapes and every other fruit.  Does one kind of fruit have more substantial effects on health than any other?  The study did not compare grapes to any other fruit; it just looked at the benefits of grapes.

I’m guessing lots of other fruits will do the same.

The moral: eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.  And be skeptical about the importance of studies like this.

Jun 17 2024

Industry-funded influence of the week: Splenda

To stay in good standing as Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists, members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics must complete a certain number of continuing education credits.  Here’s one way to get them (sent to me by a member who wishes to remain anonymous).

Here’s what they need to learn to earn them:Comment

Did participants learn about the cons of Splenda (and artificial sweeteners in general) as well as the pros?  One can only hope.

May 28 2024

Industry-funded study of the week: Almonds again

It’s been a couple of years since I’m commented on almond-industry research funding, but it remains hard at work.  Sasha Matera-Vatnick sent me a report of this study from Food Technology.  It essentially reproduced the California Almonds’ press release: New Research: Eating Almonds Can Aid in Post-Exercise Recovery.

The study: Witard, O., Siegel, L., Rooney, J., Marjoram, L., Mason, L., Bowles, E., Valente, T., Keulen, V., Helander, C., Rayo, V., Hong, M. Y., Liu, C., Hooshmand, S., & Kern, M. Chronic almond nut snacking alleviates perceived muscle soreness following downhill running but does not improve indices of cardiometabolic health in mildly overweight, middle-aged, adultsFrontiers in Nutrition. 2024 January 8: doi:

Method: 25 mildly overweight subject used a treadmill for 30 min after 8-weeks of consuming either 57 g/day of whole almonds (ALMOND) or an isocaloric amount (86 g/day) of unsalted pretzels (CONTROL).

Results: muscle soreness measured during a physical task (vertical jump) was reduced by ~24% in ALMOND vs. CONTROL . No pre-post intervention changes in assessments of cardiometabolic health, body composition, mood state or appetite were observed in ALMOND or CONTROL (all p > 0.05).

Conclusion: “Chronic almond supplementation alleviates task-specific perceived feelings of muscle soreness during acute recovery from muscle damaging exercise, resulting in the better maintenance of muscle functional capacity. These data suggest that almonds represent a functional food snack to improve exercise tolerance in mildly overweight, middle-aged adults.”

Funding: “The author(s) declare financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. 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, or the preparation of the manuscript.”

Comment:  The promised mechanism of action has to do with inflammation, claimed here to be reduced by eating almonds (or pistachios in these authors’ previous studies).  Despite the detailed science here, this seems like wishful thinking.  I like nuts but what about everything else we eat?  This is a one-food study, and it defies credulity to think a handful of nuts could have signfiicant physiological effects on their own.  Whatever.  The Almond Board paid the authors to do the study and the results and interpretation were predictable from this alone.  If you believe almonds are a superfood, maybe you won’t mind the amounts of water they require.  To which, by the way, the Almond Board says other foods use more.

May 20 2024

Industry-sponsored study of the week: ashwagandha

I learned about this one from FoodNavigator-Europe.

Ashwagandha has ‘tremendous potential’ for promoting healthy aging: Review:  Ashwagandha could serve as a potent anti-aging ingredient by improving immune system function and acting as an antioxidant, according to a review published in Frontiers in Nutrition…. Read more

This is the kind of headline that makes me ask: “Who paid for this?”

FoodNavigator usually provides references, so I could easily look this one up.

The study: Current insights into transcriptional role(s) for the nutraceutical Withania somnifera in inflammation and aging.  Praful Saha, Saiprasad Ajgaonkar,  Dishant Maniar, Simran Sahare, , Dilip Mehta,  Sujit NairFront. Nutr., 03 May 2024. Volume 11 – 2024 |

Conclusions: “Management of aging is difficult due to its progressive and irreversible nature, as well as the comorbidities associated with aging. However, the quality of biological aging can be improvised by recent advancements including intervention with nutraceuticals that can modulate the transcriptional activity of different genes implicated in aging and age-related complications…Taken together, given the modulation of key RNA markers in aging and inflammation pathways, there is tremendous potential for harnessing the beneficial effects of Withania for achieving healthy aging.”

Funding: “The author(s) declare that no financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.”

Conflict of interest: “PS, SA, DMa, SS, DMe, and SN were employed by PhytoVeda Pvt. Ltd. and Viridis Biopharma Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, India. The author(s) declared that they were an editorial board member of Frontiers, at the time of submission. This had no impact on the peer review process and the final decision.”

Comment:  I looked up Viridis BioPharma.

Viridis BioPharma is a marketing, manufacturing and research company that deals with active ingredients for the pharmaceutical, nutraceuticals, food and cosmetic industries, medicated dressings and formulations to treat wounds, burns and other novel clinically proven topical formulations.  What drives us is the desire to extend lifespans and, more than that, to extend health and wellbeing at every stage of life.

Employees of this and the other company developed this quite comprehensive review.  The authors state its purpose explicitly.

WS [Withania somnifera] is known for its versatility in treating a range of conditions, such as immunomodulation, rejuvenation, enhancement of cognitive function, inflammation, enhancing concentration, etc. However, a synthetic review exploring its potential role in ameliorating aging and aging-related disorders is currently lacking…This may facilitate the development of various preventive and therapeutic strategies employing WS as a nutraceutical for healthy aging.

Their funding statement is accurate; they weren’t paid particularly to write this article; they are just on salary generally.  And they are members of the editorial board of this journal.  Oh dear.

Here’s what the NIH says about ashwagandha.  It finds some evidence for use but concludes “most studies have been conducted as part of a traditional medical system, so the potential effects of ashwagandha when used as a dietary supplement outside of that approach remain unclear.”

May 13 2024

Food-industry press release of the week: peanuts

I received an e-mailed press release from The Peanut Institute: Peanuts and Peanut Butter Support Women’s Health.

When it comes to health, women face unique challenges that call for unique nutrition. In fact, research has found that women face a higher risk of dying from heart disease than men,1 and may be at risk for other conditions such as hypertension,2 certain cancers,3 and even Alzheimer’s disease.4  To help women protect their health, The Peanut Institute is sharing information on the benefits that regular consumption of peanuts and peanut butter delivers to females at every stage of life.

Here are excerpts from those stages.

  • Birth to 24 Months:  A child’s first two years are referred to as “B24” and are a critical time in the growth and development of the brain and body. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans highlights peanuts as “an important source of iron, zinc, protein, choline and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids.”2
  • For youngsters and teens: On the subject of protein, at 7 grams per ounce, peanuts have more protein than any other nut.6. That’s especially important for girls who work out since protein helps muscles grow, recover and stay healthy.7 Plus, peanuts are satisfying and an easy, on-the-go snack that can be stowed in a backpack, locker or car.
  • For adults and seniors: The Journal of the American Heart Association found that following a plant-based diet with nuts, legumes, fruits and veggies can lower the risk of dying prematurely from multiple causes, including cardiovascular disease, one of the leading causes of death worldwide.In addition, phytosterols, like those found in peanuts, may inhibit the growth of cancers that affect millions of women, including lung, stomach, ovarian, colon and breast cancers.9-12

I did not look to see whether the references were funded by the peanut industry, but there is plenty of precedent.  See, for example,

But there’s more.  A reader, Monica Baer, sent me another press release from the Peanut Institute: New Gut Microbiome Research Points to Positive Impact on Memory and Mood from Peanut Consumption

Research from the University of Barcelona on the gut microbiota has found that daily consumption of peanuts and peanut butter can produce compounds in the gut that help improve memory and reduce stress response, including anxiety and depression, in healthy young adults. Findings from the ARISTOTLE study were published online in the Journal of Functional Foods this September and shared by The Peanut Institute

I did look up this one: Isabella Parilli-Moser, Ricardo López-Solís, Inés Domínguez-López, Anna Vallverdú-Queralt, Sara Hurtado-Barroso, Rosa M Lamuela-Raventós, Consumption of peanut products enhances the production of microbial phenolic metabolites related with memory and stress response: Results from the ARISTOTLE trial, Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 108, 2023, 105746,

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

I like peanuts.  They are legumes and real foods.  But to attribute overall health and memory function to eating peanuts seems a bit far-fetched.  That’s why the Peanut Institute is funding research: to convince you peanuts are a superfood.  There is, of course, no such thing.  Superfood is a marketing term.  Should you eat peanuts?  Sure.  Why not?

May 9 2024

Industry-funded study of the week: mangos

Usually, I post something about research conflicts of intereest on Mondays, but am doing that today instead.

Three readers sent news about this study to me, so for that alone it’s worth sharing.

First, the press release:

Associations between mango eaters and moms-to-be: better diets and improved nutrient intakes: New NHANES analysis reveals meals including mangos associated with higher healthy eating index and better nutrition for healthy pregnancies.

Any time you see a headline like this, your first question should be: Who paid for this?

The study: Mango Consumption Was Associated with Higher Nutrient Intake and Diet Quality in Women of Childbearing Age and Older Adults.  Kristin Fulgoni and Victor L. Fulgoni III. Nutrients 202416(2), 303;

Conclusion: “This study suggests incorporating mango into the diet could increase select nutrient intake as well as diet quality in specific life stages of adult Americans.”

Funding: “This research was funded by the National Mango Board.”  [Bingo!]

Conflicts of interest: V.L.F.III and K.F. are employees of Nutrition Impact, LLC, a food and nutrition consulting firm which analyses NHANES data for numerous food and beverage companies and related entities. Nutrition Impact has a contract with the National Mango Board.

Comment: The National Mango Board contracted with the authors to produce this analysis. Its results are predictable.  Guess what: eating fruit increases intake of the nutrients contained in that fruit.  Eating fruit increases the quality of the diet.  I could have told them that.

I do love mangos, although they taste much better—like eating perfume—in their countries of origin.  I’m allergic to their skins and pits, however, and have to eat them carefully.  The Mango Board must think research results like this will increase sales.

Here’s how the Mango Board advertises this fruit:

Mangos pack a nutritional punch.

  • Each serving of mango is fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free.
  • Mangos contain over 20 different vitamins and minerals, helping to make them a superfood.

Superfood?  A marketing term.

Apr 22 2024

Industry-funded study of the week: Prunes

I learned about this one from this article:  Prune consumption may prevent bone loss for postmenopausal women.  Dietary supplementation with prunes can have a broad range of effects on immune, inflammatory and oxidative stress markers in postmenopausal women, according to a recent study…. Read more

When I see a headline like this, my first question is , as always, who would pay for something like this?

I went right to the study:  De Souza MJ, Strock NCA, Williams NI, Lee H, Koltun KJ, Rogers C, Ferruzzi MG, Nakatsu CH, Weaver C. Prunes preserve hip bone mineral density in a 12-month randomized controlled trial in postmenopausal women: the Prune Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2022 Oct 6;116(4):897-910. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqac189.

Conclusion: “The results of this investigation provide compelling evidence of the long-term efficacy of daily prune consumption.”

Funding: We thank the California Prune Board (Award Number: 180215) for the funding and prunes and the participants in this study.

Author disclosures: CW and CR are members of the Nutritional Advisory Panel for the California Prune Board. All other authors report no conflict of interest.

Comment: Bingo on this one.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all you had to do to prevent bone loss was to eat 5 prunes a day?   Go for it!

Apr 15 2024

Industry-funded study of the week: Nuts

The study: Mixed nut consumption improves brain insulin sensitivity: a randomized, single-blinded, controlled, crossover trial in older adults with overweight or obesity.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Objective: “This study aimed to investigate longer-term effects of mixed nuts on brain insulin sensitivity in older individuals with overweight/obesity.”

Methods: “In a randomized, single-blinded, controlled, crossover trial, twenty-eight healthy adults (mean±SD; 65±3 years; BMI: 27.9±2.3 kg/m2) received either daily 60 g mixed nuts (15 g of walnuts, pistachio, cashew, and hazelnuts) or no nuts (control) for 16 weeks, separated by an 8-week washout period.”

Results: “Compared with control, mixed nut consumption improved regional brain insulin action in five clusters located in the left…and right occipital lobe.

Conclusions: “Longer-term mixed nut consumption affected insulin action in brain regions involved in the modulation of metabolic and cognitive processes in older adults with overweight/obesity.”

Funding: “This study was supported by a grant obtained from the International Nuts and Dried Fruit Council (INC). The INC had no role in the study design, data collection or analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.”

Comment: Does this study have any clinical significance?  Body weight and composition did not change. I’m all for nut-eating—love them—but for this reason?  Hardly.  Despite what this study implies, nuts have calories and they most definitely count.