by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sponsored-research

Feb 1 2021

Industry-funded study of the week: artificial sweeteeners

The study: Effects of Unsweetened Preloads and Preloads Sweetened with Caloric or Low-/No-Calorie [LNCS] Sweeteners on Subsequent Energy Intakes: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Human Intervention Studies.  Han Youl Lee, Maia Jack, Theresa Poon, Daniel Noori, Carolina Venditti, Samer Hamamji, Kathy Musa-Veloso.  Advances in Nutrition, nmaa157, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmaa157

Conclusions:  “These findings suggest that LNCS-sweetened foods and beverages are viable alternatives to CS-sweetened foods and beverages to manage short-term energy intake.

Funder: The American Beverage Association provided funding for the work presented herein.

Author disclosures: MJ is a paid employee of the American Beverage Association. Intertek Health Sciences, Inc.(HYL, TP, DN, CV, SH, KMV), works for the American Beverage Association as paid scientific and regulatory consultants.

Comment: This is a study paid for by the American Beverage Association, a trade association for the makers of soft drinks, sweetened with sugars or artificial sweeteners, conducted in-house.  Its purpose is to demonstrate that artificial and low-calorie sweeteners will help you lose weight, something that independently funded studies often do not.  I’d classsify this as marketing research.  I don’t think it belongs in professional journals published by the American Society for Nutrition.  We need a new journal for this, as Corinna Hawkes of City University London once suggested, “The Journal of Industry-Funded Research.”

 

Jan 11 2021

Sponsored research study of the week: mangos and skin wrinkles (I’m not kidding)

I learned about this one from a press release: “Can eating mangoes reduce women’s facial wrinkles?”

new study from researchers at the University of California, Davis, finds eating Ataulfo mangoes, also known as honey or Champagne mangoes, may have another benefit — reducing facial wrinkles in older women with fairer skin. The study was published in the journal Nutrients.

Postmenopausal women who ate a half cup of Ataulfo mangoes four times a week saw a 23 percent decrease in deep wrinkles after two months and a 20 percent decrease after four months.

Surely, this can’t be serious?  Who paid for this?

The study: Prospective Evaluation of Mango Fruit Intake on Facial Wrinkles and Erythema in Postmenopausal Women: A Randomized Clinical Pilot Study.  Vivien W. Fam, Roberta R. Holt Carl L. Keen, Raja K. Sivamani .  and Robert M. Hackman.  Nutrients 202012(11), 3381; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12113381

Method: Women were given either 85 g or 250 g of mangos to eat every day for 16 weeks.  Their wrinkles were photographed and measured before and after.

Conclusion: “The intake of 85 g of mangos reduced wrinkles in fair-skinned postmenopausal women, while an intake of 250 g showed the opposite effect.”

Funding: “This study was supported in part by a grant from the National Mango Board (NMB)…which also supplied the fresh mangos for the study. The NMB had no role in the study design, data collection, data analysis, manuscript preparation, or publication decision.”

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Comment:  I love mangos (despite being somewhat allergic to them), but come on.  According to the press release, the researchers “said it’s unclear why consuming more mango would increase the severity of wrinkles but speculate that it may be related to a robust amount of sugar in the larger portion of mangoes.”  Another interpretation is that mangos have no effect (which makes more sense).  In any case, this study did not compare mangos to any other fruit.  This is a classic case of an industry-sponsored study coming out with results favorable to the sponsor’s interests and allowing those interests to be announced in a press release.  The authors may think industry sponsorship does not create a conflict of interest, but much evidence strongly suggests that it does (I reviewed that evidence in my book, Unsavory Truth).

Nov 23 2020

Industry-funded study of the week: dairy foods and child growth

Growth and Development of Preschool Children (12–60 Months): A Review of the Effect of Dairy Intake.   David C. Clark, Christopher J. Cifelli, Matthew A Pikosky.  Nutrients 202012(11), 3556; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12113556

The study:  A narrative review of studies of dairy intake and child growth, cognitive development, and weight gain.
Results: there is a positive association between dairy intake and linear growth. The impact of milk or dairy products on cognitive development is less clear due to a lack of evidence and is a gap in the literature that should be addressed. Regarding the impact on body weight, the majority of evidence suggests there is either no association or an inverse association between milk intake by preschool children on overweight and obesity later in life.
Funding: “The work involved for this manuscript was funded by National Dairy Council (provided to D.C.C.).”
Conflicts of interest: “C.J.C. and M.A.P. are employees of National Dairy Council.”
Comment: The Dairy Council has a vested interest in demonstrating that dairy foods promote linear growth and cognitive function in young children, but do not promote overweight or obesity. This dairy-funded literature review is remarkable for its cautious interpretation: “the absence of data from studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries is a serious gap, especially given the dual burden of undernutrition and overnutrition that is becoming prevalent in developing countries.”  That’s another reason for this study: sell more dairy foods in middle- and low-income countries.  China, for example, is pushing dairy products as a means to grow taller children; it does so despite widespread lactose intolerance among the Chinese population.
Nov 16 2020

Industry-funded studies of the week: blueberries—again!

Thanks to Lisa Young for sending this announcement: New Research Examines Blueberries’ Positive Impact in Men with Type 2 Diabetes. 

I am already on record as saying that I love blueberries, but I wish they weren’t marketed as superfoods.  All fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains provide nutrients and fiber.  That makes all of them worth eating for their nutrition-and-health value as well as their taste.  Singling out one or another makes no sense to me, but I’m not in the business of selling one rather than another.  Because similar results would be expected from studies of many other fruits, I put this one in the category of marketing research.

Effect of Blueberry Consumption on Cardiometabolic Health Parameters in Men with Type 2 Diabetes: An 8-Week, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.  Kim S Stote, Margaret M Wilson, Deborah Hallenbeck, Krista Thomas, Joanne M Rourke, Marva I Sweeney, Katherine T Gottschall-Pass, Aidar R Gosmanov.  Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 4, Issue 4, April 2020, nzaa030. 

Conclusion: “Consumption of 22 g freeze-dried blueberries for 8 wk may beneficially affect cardiometabolic health parameters in men with type 2 diabetes.”

Funding:  “Supported by the US Highbush Blueberry Council (to KSS, MMW, and ARG) and by resources and the use of facilities at the Stratton VA Medical Center, Albany, NY, USA.  Author disclosures: KSS, MMW, and ARG received intervention products from the US Highbush Blueberry Council. All other authors report no conflicts of interest.  The US Highbush Blueberry Council supplied the funds to conduct the study but was not involved in the design, implementation, analysis, or interpretation of data.

Comment:  The funder does not have to be involved.  Everyone knows funders are not interested in funding research that might produce results unfavorable to their product.  Freeze-dried blueberries sound like medicine.  I’d rather eat the real things.

Nov 9 2020

Industry-funded study of the week: fruit juice

If you are a marketer of fruit juice, you have a problem.  Fruit juice has a lot of sugar and retains little of the fiber of whole fruit.  Dietary recommendations increasingly suggest limits on the amounts consumed, especially for children.

But according to the trade group, the Juice Products Association, “The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concur that 4 to 6 ounces of 100% fruit juice per day is appropriate for young children. For children age 7 and older, the AAP recommends a daily serving of 8 to 12 ounces per day.”

No it does not!  The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a limit to that amount.  Big difference.

Juice should not be introduced into the diet of infants before 12 months of age unless clinically indicated. The intake of juice should be limited to, at most, 4 ounces/day in toddlers 1 through 3 years of age, and 4 to 6  ounces/day for children 4 through 6 years of age. For children 7 to 18 years of age, juice intake should be limited to 8 ounces or 1 cup of the recommended 2 to 2.5 cups of fruit servings per day.

What about adults?  Adults do not need more sugars or the calories they provide.   They too would be better off eating fruit.

Juice trade associations to the rescue.

The study:  100% Fruit juice intake and cardiovascular risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective and randomised controlled studies. , et al.  European Journal of Nutrition (2020)

Methods: This is a meta-analysis of prospective studies and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the relationship between consumption of 100% fruit juice (FJ) and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CV).

Conclusions: “The results of these analyses indicate that 100%FJ consumption is not associated with higher CV risk. A non-linear inverse dose–response relationship occurs between 100%FJ consumption and CV disease, in particular for risk of stroke, probably mediated by the decrease in blood pressure.”

Funding: “Open access funding provided by Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II within the CRUI-CARE Agreement. This project was funded by the European Fruit Juice Association (AIJN) via an unrestricted grant. AIJN was not involved in the design, conduction, analysis and interpretation of the results.”

Comment: Why would anyone think that fruit juice, of all things, would be associated with heart disease risk?  You would have to be drinking a lot of it —at the exclusion of healthier foods—for it to make  a significant difference.  The only point of this study is to try to convince adults to drink more juice.  When I was a kid, fruit juice was expensive and we drank it in 4-ounce glasses.  If you drink fruit juice at all, that’s still a good idea.

Nov 2 2020

Industry-funded study of the week: Alcohol

Even after writing Unsavory Truth: How the Food Industry Skews the Science of What We Eat I could hardly believe this particular example.

The Study: Exploring the Influence of Alcohol Industry Funding in Observational Studies on Moderate Alcohol Consumption and Health.   Moniek Vos, Annick P M van Soest, Tim van Wingerden, Marion L Janse, Rick M Dijk, Rutger J Brouwer, Iris de Koning, Edith J M Feskens, Aafje Sierksma.  Advances in Nutrition, Volume 11, Issue 5, September 2020, Pages 1384–1391.

Methods:  This is a meta-analysis of meta-analyses of studies examining the health effects of alcohol consumption that are used as the basis of international guidelines for alcohol consumption.

Results and conclusions: “only a small proportion of observational studies in meta-analyses …are funded by the alcohol industry. Based on this selection of observational studies the association between moderate alcohol consumption and different health outcomes does not seem to be related to funding source.

Funding: “The authors reported no funding received for this study.”

Author disclosures: “MV, APMvS, TvW, MLJ, RMD, RJB, IdK, and AS were employed by the Dutch Beer Institute during the study and writing of the manuscript. This Institute is funded by Dutch Brewers, which is the trade organization of the 14 largest beer brewers in the Netherlands. EJMF reports no conflicts of interest.”

Comment: This one defies credulity: an industry-funded study—most authors work for the beer industry—of whether industry funding affects research outcome.

Guess what?  It didn’t find any effect.

For years, the alcohol industry has been working hard to convince regulators and the public that moderate drinking, especially of wine and beer, is not only harmless but actually improves health.  This study is an example of how this industry attempts to accomplish that goal.

For another egregious example, see this post.

Oct 26 2020

Industry-funded studies of the week: potatoes

The potato industry has a problem.  Some nutrition experts do not recommend them and argue that potatoes—especially French fries—raise blood sugar levels and should be excluded from recommendations to increase vegetable intake (I love potatoes in any form but try not to overeat them—everything in moderation if you can manage that, and I can).

In any case, the The Alliance for Potato Research & Education (APRE) is devoted to protecting the reputation—and sales–of potatoes, and funds research for that purpose.

The study: Daily intake of non-fried potato does not affect markers of glycaemia and is associated with better diet quality compared with refined grains: a randomised,crossover study in healthy adults.   EA Johnston et al.  British Journal of Nutrition (2020), 123, 1032–1042.

Results: “Compared with refined grains, the HEI-2015 Healthy Eating Index] scores..were higher following the potato condition. Consuming non-fried potatoes resulted in higher diet quality, K  [potassium] and fibre intake, without adversely affecting cardiometabolic risk.”

Financial Support: The Alliance for Potato Research and Education provided funds for the research conducted. Their staff were not involved in any aspects of conducting the study, analyzing the data or interpreting the results presented.

Comment: The APRE says it remains firmly committed to the scientific integrity of industry-funded research”  Its guidelines for research integrity sound good, but don’t address the inherent problems of industry-funded research: the well established “funding effect” that virtually guarantees that industry-funded research will produce results that favor the sponsor’s interests, and the also well established observation that investigator bias tends to occur at an unconscious level.  The exclusion of fried potatoes from this particular study suggests that the investigators know that frequent eating of French fries is a marker of poor diet quality.  I think potatoes have a place in healthy diets and that much depends on their particular role and preparation.  As with much in nutrition, the potato situation is complicated, and industry funding does not help with clarification.

Sep 21 2020

Industry-funded study of the week: soup prevents obesity?

When I saw the title of this study, I had two questions:

  • Why would anyone do a study like this? (OK, in short-term studies, consuming water or soup before meals reduces immediate calorie consumption, but in the long term?)
  • Who paid for it?  (Getting the answer to this one took some digging).

The study: Association between soup consumption and obesity: A systematic review with meta-analysis. M.Kuroda and K. Ninomiya. Physiology & Behavior,  Volume 225, 15 October 2020, 113103.

Conclusion: “soup consumption is significantly related to lower odds ratio of obesity…suggesting that soup consumption was inversely correlated with a risk of obesity.”