by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Sponsored-research

Jun 13 2022

Industry sponsorship of nutrition societies

I am a member of the American Society for Nutrition and received this notice about a sponsored session at it forthcoming annual meeting.

Potatoes generally score high on the Glycemic Index, indicating that their starches are quickly digested to sugars.  The Alliance for Potato Research & Education has a speaker at this session.  I’m guessing that the speakers won’t have anything good to say about the Glycemic Index.  I don’t either, actually, but opinions would be more credible if they came from independent sources.

This made me look up the other sponsored sessions.

Here’s another reason why I don’t think the ASN should allow these sessions at annual meetings.

In my experience, you don’t get much scientific debate at industry-sponsored scientific sessions. Alas.

Jun 1 2022

Who funds research on food and agriculture?

The USDA has just released this summary of food research funding.

This graph clearly indicates what I view as a big problem: government funding for agricultural and food research has been declining since the early 2000s, whereas private funding—meaning corporations and industries—has sharply increased since 2008 or so.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Government funding can support basic research with no obvious commercial implications—science.

Funding by food corporations and industries has one primary purpose: to develop and promote products—marketing.

I’m not opposed to marketing research, as long as it is labeled as such.

The decline in federal funding for food and nutrition research has long-term implications for scientific progress.

We need basic research on agriculture, food, nutrition, and health.

These curves need to be reversed.

May 30 2022

Industry-funded study of the week: cranberries—again!

Cranberry marketing gets wilder and wilder.  Last week I posted a study of endothelial function paid for by the cranberry industry.

But here’s a study that tops it.  I learned about it from a headline in Cranberry consumption may boost memory and ward off dementia in elderly, study finds.

Oh come on.  Really?

I went right to it.

The study: Chronic Consumption of Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) for 12 Weeks Improves Episodic Memory and Regional Brain Perfusion in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomised, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel-Groups Feasibility Study.  Emma Flanagan, Donnie Cameron, Rashed Sobhan, Chloe Wong, Matthew G. PontifexNicole TosiPedro MenaDaniele Del Rio3, Saber Sami, Arjan Narbad, Michael Müller, Michael Hornberger and David Vauzour.  Front. Nutr., 19 May 2022 |

Design: This was a 12-week randomised placebo-controlled trial of freeze-dried cranberry powder in 60 older adults aged between 50 and 80 years. Investigators measured memory and executive function, did neuroimaging, and took blood samples before and after .

Results: “Cranberry supplementation for 12 weeks was associated with improvements in visual episodic memory in aged participants when compared to placebo.”

Conclusions: “The results of this study indicate that daily cranberry supplementation (equivalent to 1 small cup of cranberries) over a 12-week period improves episodic memory performance and neural functioning.”

Funding: “This research was supported by a Cranberry Institute grant…The Cranberry Institute was not involved in the design, implementation, analysis, and interpretation of the data.”

Conflict of Interest: “DV, MH, MM, and AN received funding from the Cranberry Institute.  The remaining authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.”

Publisher’s Note:  “All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article, or claim that may be made by its manufacturer, is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.”

Comment: This is the first time I have ever seen a Publisher’s Note like this.  Even the publisher is troubled by the fact that this study is funded by a cranberry industry trade group and the four most senior authors report funding from the group.  Without even getting into whether cranberry powder is equivalent to cranberries, whether anyone can eat cranberries without adding their weight in sugar, or whether any other fruit might have similar effects, we should ask whether it makes any sense at all to think that any one single food could boost memory and prevent dementia in the elderly.

For detailed discussion of how industry funding influences research, and the consequences of such practices, see my book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

May 23 2022

Industry funded study of the week: cranberries

The study:  Daily consumption of cranberry improves endothelial function in healthy adults: a double blind randomized controlled trial.  Christian Heiss,  et al.  Food & Function.  2022;7.  DOI

Objective: To investigate the vascular effects of acute and daily consumption of freeze dried whole cranberry in healthy men and how effects relate to circulating cranberry (poly)phenol metabolites.

Methods: A double-blind, parallel-group, randomized controlled trial was conducted in 45 healthy male adults randomly allocated to 1 month daily consumption of either cranberry (9 g powder solubilized in water equivalent to 100 g of fresh cranberries, 525 mg total (poly)phenols) or control (9 g powder, no (poly)phenols).

Results: Cranberry consumption significantly increased FMD [flow-mediated dilation].

Conclusions: Acute and daily consumption of whole cranberry powder for 1 month improves vascular function in healthy men and this is linked with specific metabolite profiles in plasma.

Funding: This study was funded by the Cranberry Institute and by the Research Committee of the Medical Faculty of Heinrich-Heine University Dusseldorf (grant number 9772574). The authors also acknowledge a Susanne Bunnenberg Heart Foundation grant to Dusseldorf Heart Centre.

Comment: I like cranberries.  Of course I consider them healthy to eat.  All fruits have health benefits.

But cranberry powder?

And cranberries are tart,; they need sugar.  Ocean Spray’s cranberry sauce recipe calls for one cup of sugar added to 12 ounces of cranberries.

Moderation, please!

Apr 11 2022

Industry-funded study of the week: oats (another rare exception)

A reader in Australia, Anthony Power, sent me this one, which he noticed discussed in an article in the Australian The Conversation.

This one is not obviously funder takes all.  Indeed, it might need to be categorized as a rare example of an industry-funded study with results unfavorable to the sponsor’s interests.

The study: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials on the Effects of Oats and Oat Processing on Postprandial Blood Glucose and Insulin ResponsesKathy Musa-VelosoDaniel NooriCarolina Venditti Theresa Poon 1Jodee Johnson 2Laura S Harkness 2Marianne O’Shea 2YiFang Chu 2  J Nutr.  2021 Feb 1;151(2):341-351.  doi: 10.1093/jn/nxaa349.

Objectives: The study objective was to determine the effects of differently processed oats on the postprandial blood glucose and insulin responses relative to refined grains.

Conclusions: A disruption in the structural integrity of the oat kernel is likely associated with a loss in the glycemic benefits of oats.

Funding: The systematic review and meta-analysis, as well as the writing of the manuscript, were funded by PepsiCo, Inc.

Conflicts of interest: Author disclosures: KM-V, DN, CV, and TP are employees of Intertek Health   ciences Inc., which has provided consulting services to PepsiCo, Inc. JJ, MO, and YC are employees of PepsiCo, Inc., which manufactures oatmeal products under the brand name Quaker Oats and which funded this systematic review and meta-analysis. LSH is a former employee of PepsiCo, Inc. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not
necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of Intertek Health Sciences Inc. or PepsiCo, Inc.

Comment: Oats are good sources of soluble fiber which in some studies helps lower blood cholesterol levels.  PepsiCo owns Quaker Oats, which makes oatmeals of varying degree of integrity.  The least processed ones, according to this review, do the best job.  This means that quick oats have less of a beneficial effect than the longer-to-cook less processed varieties.  As the paper puts it: “The postprandial glycemic and insulin responses
with thin/instant/quick oats were not significantly different from those elicited by the refined grain control.”

PepsiCo currently extols the health benefits of oatmeal on its website, without making a distinction between the Instant and Need-to-be-Cooked-Longer varieties.  Will it change its website in response to this study?  We will see in due course.

Apr 4 2022

Industry-funded study of the week: prunes, if you can believe it

Thanks to Georgene Grover for sending this one, with this comment: “What about this? Ten prunes a day seems excessive!”

The study:  The Role of Prunes in Modulating Inflammatory Pathways to Improve Bone Health in Postmenopausal Women.  Janhavi J Damani, Mary Jane De Souza, Hannah L VanEvery, Nicole CA Strock, and Connie J Rogers. Adv Nutr 2022;00:1–17.

Purpose:  Prunes (dried plums; Prunus domestica L.) have been studied as a potential whole-food dietary intervention to mitigate bone loss in preclinical models of osteoporosis and in osteopenic postmenopausal women.

Method: This is a review of previous studies.  It summarizes findings from preclinical and clinical studies that have assessed the effect of prunes on oxidative stress, inflammatory mediators, and bone outcomes. Most of the studies that reported effects required 100 grams per day of prunes (about 10 per day).

Conclusion: Overall, evidence from in vitro, preclinical studies, and limited clinical studies suggests the potential role of prunes in ameliorating bone loss.

Funding and COI: Supported by the California Prune Board provided funding to MJDS and CJR. Publication funds came from the Hershey Company endowment, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Penn State University. California Dried Plum Board (grant no. 100804). Author disclosures: CJR is member of the Nutrition Advisory Panel for the California Dried Plum Board. The other authors report no conflicts of interest.

Comment: This is a standard industry-funded paper with a predictable outcome.  As far as I can tell, every food trade association is funding research that can help with marketing.  Even prunes.

Prunes are fine, but studies of one food don’t really tell you anything about diets as a whole.  Eat prunes if you like them.  Ten prunes means ten plums.  Seems like a lot, no?

Mar 28 2022

Industry-funded study of the week: French fries are just as good for you as almonds

I like French fries as much as anyone but c’mon; they are hardly a health food.

The Alliance for Potato Research & Education sent me a press release about a new study demonstrating that “adding a daily 300-calorie serving of French fries to one’s typical diet every day for one month does not result in differential short-term weight gain or other biomarker changes associated with impaired blood sugar regulation compared to adding an isocaloric daily serving of almonds.”

The study: French-fried potatoes consumption and energy balance: a randomized controlled trial.  Daniel L Smith, Jr, Rebecca L Hanson, Stephanie L Dickinson, Xiwei Chen, Amy M Goss, John B Cleek, W Timothy Garvey, David B Allison.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nqac045,

Purpose: “We completed an RCT [randomized controlled trial] testing whether increased daily potato consumption influences energy balance (specifically, fat mass (FM)) compared with calorie-matched almond consumption.”  Participants were given 300 calories a day in either fries (~3 oz) or almonds (~40).

Conclusion: There were no significant differences in FM [fat mass] or in glucoregulatory biomarkers after 30 days of potato consumption versus almonds. Results do not support a causal relationship between increased French fried potato consumption and the negative health outcomes studied.

Funding: This study was supported in part by a grant from the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE) to DBA and DLS, by Core services through NIH grant awards P30DK056336 and P60DK079626 and the donation of study food items by J.R. Simplot Company.

Comment:  I’m not surprised by this result.   Biomarkers depend on everything you eat, not just one food.

The purpose of this study was to take away any guilt you might feel about eating French fries.   The potato alliance got the result it wanted.


Mar 22 2022

Industry-funded trial with surprising results

Yesterday I reported about the COSMOS clinical trial demonstrating reductions in mortality among people taking cocoa flavanol supplements.

That trial had another arm: multivitamin supplements.

The study: Multivitamins in the Prevention of Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease: The COSMOS Randomized Clinical Trial.  Sesso HD et al.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nqac056,

Conclusion: The supplements did not reduce cardiovascular disease, cancer, or all-cause mortality in older men and women.

Funding: The COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS) is supported by an investigator-initiated grant from Mars Edge, a segment of Mars dedicated to nutrition research and products, which included infrastructure support and the donation of study pills and packaging. Pfizer Consumer Healthcare (now part of GSK Consumer Healthcare) provided support through the partial provision of study pills and packaging.

Conflicts of interest: Drs. Sesso and Manson reported receiving investigatorinitiated grants from Mars Edge, a segment of Mars Incorporated dedicated to nutrition research and products, for infrastructure support and donation of COSMOS study pills and packaging,
Pfizer Consumer Healthcare (now part of GSK Consumer Healthcare) for donation of COSMOS study pills and packaging during the conduct of the study. Dr. Sesso additionally reported receiving investigator-initiated grants from Pure Encapsulations and Pfizer Inc. and honoraria
and/or travel for lectures from the Council for Responsible Nutrition, BASF, NIH, and American Society of Nutrition during the conduct of the study. No other authors reported any conflicts of interest.

Comment: Pfizer, of course, makes Centrum multivitamin supplements aimed at older adults.

I was surprised by this part of the trial because previous studies have also shown no consistently beneficial effect of supplementation of individual vitamins or multivitamins on disease risk.  Pfizer must have hoped to find benefits for Centrum.  This is a rare industry-supported study that showed no benefits and is, therefore, worth attention.