by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sponsored-research

Dec 3 2018

Industry-funded study of the week: Cherries and exercise recovery in women

Since publication of my latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We EatI’ve been collecting particularly delicious examples.

Here’s one I discovered through a tweet:

I looked up the press release.

Montmorency tart cherries may have the potential to improve exercise recovery in active females, suggests a new study published in the European Journal of Sport Science.

Researchers in the U.K. found that Montmorency tart cherry concentrate, when consumed twice a day for eight days, reduced self-reported muscle soreness and impacted certain aspects of muscle function after exercise, compared to a placebo.

Guess who funded this?Another example of a study with a sponsor predictable from its title, alas.

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}.

 

Nov 19 2018

A2 milk: still making claims based on industry-funded research

I haven’t said anything about A2 milk—milk from cows producing a different form of casein protein than cows producing regular A1 casein—since coming across it in Australia nearly three years ago.

Then, I was impressed that the manufacturer’s claims for A2 milk’s better digestibility were based entirely on studies paid for by—surprise!—the manufacturer (as I explain in my latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eatfood industry funding of nutrition research produces highly predictable results and, therefore, is not good for science, public health, or trust).

Now those companies are trying to sell A2 milk here (at a higher price, of course).

According to FoodNavigator-USA, the US dairy industry is not happy about these claims and brought them up before the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, which referred the matter to the Federal Trade Commission.

At issue is the quality of the industry-funded research.

It’s easy to understand the dairy industry’s view that A2 milk will take market share away from conventional milk at a time when milk sales have been declining for years.

As for the benefits of A2 milk?  As with so many health claims, I’m betting that this one is more about marketing than health.

Caveat emptor.

 

Nov 14 2018

Effects of ultraprocessing: fewer phenolics in corn flakes

In FoodNavigator, I read a report of a study finding that processing of corn into breakfast cereal flakes strips out phenolic compounds and tocopherols (vitamin E) associated with good health.

Just as processing of whole wheat into white flour removes the bran and germ, so does the processing of corn into corn flakes.

The germ and bran (hull) layers of grain seeds contain the vitamins and minerals—and the phenolics.  What’s left is the starch and protein (endosperm).

To replace these losses, manufacturers fortify corn flakes with 10% to 25% of the Daily Value for 12 vitamins and minerals.

This study is further evidence for the benefits of consuming relatively unprocessed foods.

Of particular interest to me is the authors’ disclosure statement:

This work was funded in part through gifts from the Kellogg Company and Dow AgroSciences.

The authors declare no competing financial interest.

This makes this study a highly unusual example of an industry-funded study with a result unfavorable to the sponsor’s interests.  The authors do not perceive Kellogg funding as a competing interest.  It is.  Kellogg (and maybe Dow) had a vested interest in the outcome of this study.

I would love to know whether these authors obtain further research grants from Kellogg and Dow.

Nov 12 2018

Another industry-funded study for your amusement

As I discuss in my latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eatfood industry funding of nutrition research produces highly predictable results and, therefore, is not good for science, public health, or trust.

Industry-funded studies are easily recognizable by their titles.  When I see a title like this one, I immediately wonder why anyone would do a study to example this particular question.  And then I look to see who funded it.

Title: Corn Oil Lowers Plasma Cholesterol Compared with Coconut Oil in Adults with Above-Desirable Levels of Cholesterol in a Randomized Crossover TrialJ Nutr 2018 148(10):1556-63.

Conclusion: “When incorporated into the habitual diet, consumption of foods providing ∼54 g of corn oil/d produced a more favorable plasma lipid profile than did coconut oil in adults with elevated cholesterol.”

Sponsor: “Supported by ACH Food Companies, Inc., Oakbrook Terrace, IL,” and all of the authors either received research funding from ACH Food Companies, Inc., or are employees of that company.

Comment: So what is this about?  ACH is the maker of Mazola oil, which must be losing market share to coconut oil.

Which oil is better for you and does it really matter?

I sure would like some independent researchers to weigh in on this.

Nov 5 2018

Why I so enjoy industry-funded studies

My latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eatis about food industry funding of nutrition research and why it’s not good for science, public health, or trust.

The book is full of examples, easily recognized by their titles.

I can’t resist showing you the latest example:

The title: Vitamin-supplemented chewing gum can increase salivary and plasma levels of a panel of vitamins in healthy human participants.  Journal of Functional Foods Volume 50, November 2018, Pages 37-44.

The conclusion: “our study demonstrates the potential usefulness of chewing gum as a delivery vehicle for both water- and fat-soluble vitamins.”

Guess who funded this study?  “This work was supported by Vitaball, Inc. (FT. Thomas, KY, USA) and the United States Department of Agriculture.”

Vitaball, you can probably guess, makes vitamin-fortified chewing gum, and one of the study’s authors works for the company.

Want vitamins?  Try food.

Jun 14 2018

Question for the day: Is Tofu processed?

With all of the talk these days about avoiding ultraprocessed foods, questions come up about what that means.  After I posted about the added colors involved in processing plant-based meats, I received a tweeted question:

This got me thinking about tofu. Is it highly processed? Love your thoughts on it!

Like everything else about nutrition, the answer depends—in this case about what you consider processing.  All foods are processed to some extent, if you count washing and cutting.

Ultraprocessing, however, refers to foods that look nothing like what they started out as, and are loaded with added sugars, salt, and artificial colors and flavors.

Commercial tofu is minimally processed; it is just soybeans and a coagulating agent.  Here is one recipe, for example:

  • Soak the soybeans: in water to soften them for 12 to 14 hours.
  • Process the beans to a slurry.
  • Boil the slurry to inactivate lectins and other undesirable soy compounds.
  • Extract the soy liquid (“milk”) with a roller press to separate it from the soybean pulp.
  • Mix a coagulating agent—calcium sulfate, magnesium chloride, or nigari.—into the soy milk.
  • Press the liquid out of the curds.

The tofu you might make at home seems minimally processed, as it is made from just commercial soymilk and lemon juice.  Commercial soymilk, however, contains far more than just soybean liquid:

INGREDIENTS: Soymilk (Filtered Water, Soybeans), Cane Sugar, Contains 2% or less of: Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Tricalcium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin [B2], Vitamin B12), Sea Salt, Natural Flavor, Gellan Gum.

I consider good-quality commercial tofu to be minimally processed.  Commercial soymilk is another matter.  Sugar is its second ingredient.  Gellan Gum is its last ingredient.

I wasn’t familiar with Gellan Gum, but I love the Wikipedia definition: “a water-soluble anionic polysaccharide produced by the bacterium Sphingomonas elodea (formerly Pseudomonas elodea),” that substitutes for agar and carrageenan.

A 1988 study of its effects on humans concluded that “the ingestion of gellan gum at a high level for 23 days caused no adverse dietary or physiological effects in any of the volunteers.”  No surprise here: Financial support for the study came from Kelco, Inc., a company that supplies Gellan Gum.

If you want your tofu unsweetened and minimally processed, buy a freshly made commercial variety.

Mar 28 2018

The NIH’s dubious partnership in industry-funded alcohol research

Last week, New York Times reporter Roni Rabin wrote how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) solicited funding from alcohol companies to fund—and, distressingly, participate in the design of—a study of the effects of moderate drinking on heart disease risk.

This is not the first time Ms. Rabin has written about this study.  In July, she described the study and its funding.

Since then, she has apparently been busy filing FOIA requests and conducting further interviews.  These reveal that the NIH actively solicited industry funding and input into this trial.

The [NIH] presentations gave the alcohol industry an opportunity to preview the trial design and vet the investigators. Indeed, the scientist leading the meetings was eventually chosen to head the huge clinical trial.

They also made the industry privy to pertinent details, including a list of clinical sites and investigators who were “already on board,” the size and length of the trial, approximate number of participants, and the fact that they could choose any beverage. By design, no form of alcohol — wine, liquor or beer — would be called out as better than another in the trial.

But it gets worse.  Boston University professor Michael Siegel tells his personal story of dealings with NIH’s National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

On January 16, 2015, I was called into the office of the Director of NIAAA and was essentially reprimanded for conducting NIAAA-funded research that was detrimental to the alcohol industry…At the meeting, I was told that I would never again be funded to conduct research on alcohol marketing, regardless of how highly my research proposal was scored by the scientific review panel.

Let me be clear: research ethics require funders to have no involvement in research design, conduct, or interpretation, lest they exert undue influence on the results.

Julia Belluz (Vox) put this study in context.  She describes how

The NIH is now investigating whether the researchers violated federal policy by soliciting donations, and they’re appointing outside experts to review the design of the study. We don’t yet know the full story, and there’s surely more to uncover.

Anheuser Busch InBev, Heineken, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and Carlsberg helped pay $67.7 million of the $100 million government study, which is currently underway. And even more troubling is that if you were a patient looking to enroll in the trial through the online clinical trials registry, you’d have no way of knowing about the industry’s involvement because that funding is not disclosed there.

Although I do not have much to say about the alcohol industry in my forthcoming book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, I mention of this study as an example of how other industries skew research and also how pooling industry research funds is insufficient protection against conflicted interests (alcohol companies agreed to contribute 67.7% of the funding).

It’s good that the NIH has decided to investigate this dubious government-industry partnership, which so clearly seems aimed at marketing, not public health.