by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Tea

Sep 20 2021

Industry-funded study of the week: strawberries

A sharp-eyed reader, Paula Rochelle, sent me this one.  From the title alone, she suspected industry sponsorship.  Good thinking!

The Study: Dietary strawberry improves cognition in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in older adults.

Dietary intervention: For 90 days: “12 g of a lyophilised, standardised blend of SB sourced from equal parts of Albion, San Andreas, Camino Real and Well-Pict 269 varieties, twice daily (24 g/d, equivalent to two cups per serving of fresh SB).”

Results: “This study found that 90 d of dietary intervention with SB resulted in (1) improved word recognition and (2) improved spatial learning and memory in a virtual navigation task among healthy older adults.”

Conclusion: “In conclusion, these findings suggest that the inclusion of SB in the diet may aid in preserving some aspects of hippocampal cognitive function during normal ageing.”

Funding: The study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and California Strawberry Commission.

Conflicts of interest:  The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Comment: This study received partial support from USDA as part of its effort to promote fruit-and-vegetable consumption.  The California Strawberry Commission wants people to buy more strawberries.   It summarizes the research it sponsors on its website.  Everyone knows that eating fruits and vegetables is good for health.  Why does the Strawberry Commission go to all this trouble to demonstrate that strawberries are good for health?  My guess: to compete with blueberries for market share.  This, like other such studies, is about marketing.  The authors do not view strawberry industry funding as a source of conflicted interests.  They should.

Reference: For a summary of research on the “funding effect”—the observations that research sponsored by food companies almost invariably produces results favorable to the sponsor’s interests and that recipients of industry funding typically did not intend to be influenced and do not recognize the influence—see my book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

Sep 13 2021

Industry-sponsored study of the week: Tea!

I learned about this one from a tweet:

This seemed worth a follow up.

Here’s the article from The Standard:

Drinking tea from the age of four helps children to combat obesitystress and heart disease, according to a new study.

I checked the study: Tea and Wellness throughout Life

Overall, this review concludes that tea consumption contributes to health and wellness throughout life and that everyone should be encouraged to enjoy three cups daily as part of a healthy lifestyle pattern.

Who paid for this?

Conflicts of interest: The authors received funding provided by the Tea Advisory Panel (www.teaadvisorypanel.com), which is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from the UK TEA & INFUSIONS ASSOCIATION (UKTIA), the trade association for the UK tea industry. UKTIA plays no role in producing the outputs of the panel. Independent panel members include nutritionists, biochemists, dietitians, dentist and doctors.

I don’t really care who was on the panel.  This was an industry-paid project with a predictable—if eyebrow-raising—result.  Tea is lovely and there is no reason to think it unhealthy, but surely some skepticism is called for here?

Reference: For a summary of research on the “funding effect”—the observations that research sponsored by food companies almost invariably produces results favorable to the sponsor’s interests and that recipients of industry funding typically did not intend to be influenced and do not recognize the influence—see my book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

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Jul 2 2021

Weekend reading: Michael Pollan’s “Your Mind on Plants”

Michael Pollan.  This is Your Mind on Plants.  Penguin, 2021.

This book is a great read: informative, smart, hilariously funny on occasion, and wonderfully written, as is only to be expected from anything Pollan produces.

The book is about three plants that are sources of mind-altering drugs, poppies (opium), tea and coffee (caffeine), and peyote cactus (mescaline).

The tea and coffee bring it into the realm of food politics, and I’ll stick to them for the moment (but the poppies chapter is particularly riveting, tough, and timely).

An excerpt beginning on page 99:

Most of the various plant chemicals, or alkaloids, that people have used to alter the textures of consciousness are chemicals originally selected for defense. Yet even in the insect world, the dose makes the poison, and if the dose is low enough, a chemical made for defense can serve a very different purpose: to attract, and secure the enduring loyalty of pollinators.  This appears to be what’s going on between bees and certain caffeine-producing plants, in a symbiotic relationship that may have something important to tell us about our own relationship to caffeine…[in an experiment] even at concentrations too small for the bees to taste, the presence of caffeine helped them to quickly learn and recall a particular scent and to favor it…Actually we don’t know whethe the bees feel anything when they ingest caffeine, only that the chemical helps them to remembe–which, as we will see, caffeine appears to do for us, too.

Another from page 145:

Would people have ever discovered coffee or tea, let alone continued to drink them for hundreds of years, if not for caffeine?  There are countless other seeds and leaves that can be steeped in hot water to make a beverage, and some number of them surely taste better than coffee or tea, but where are the shrines to those plants in our homes and offices and shops?  Let’s face it: The rococo structures of meaning we’ve erected atop those psychoactive molecules are just culture’s way of dressing up our desire to change consciousness in the finery of metaphor and association.  Indeed, what really commends these beverages to us is their association not with wood smoke or stone fruit or biscuits, but with the experience of well-being—of euphoria—they reliably give us.

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Jan 27 2020

Industry-funded comment of the week: Tea, this time

Perspective: The Role of Beverages as a Source of Nutrients and Phytonutrients. Mario G Ferruzzi, Jirayu Tanprasertsuk, Penny Kris-Etherton, Connie M Weaver, Elizabeth J Johnson.  Advances in Nutrition, nmz115, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmz115.  Published: 22 November 2019

Conclusions: “Modest shifts in beverage choices can help close the gaps between current intakes and dietary recommendations…[e.g.] Replacing SSBs with water, low-sodium tomato juice, nonfat milk, or unsweetened coffee or tea.”

Funder: “Supported by The Tea Council of the USA (to EJJ).”

Comment: This is a lengthy review of the health effects of a range of beverages—milk, soft drinks, sports drinks, alcohol—as well a coffee and tea.  Of tea, it says:

Tea is a major contributor to beverage intake in the US adult population with ∼1 of 3 adults reporting regular consumption on any given day. Tea provides few nutrients (∼2% of potassium intake in the United States), although it is considered to be a significant contributor to total fluoride intake….Green tea consumption was significantly inversely associated with CVD and all-cause mortality, whereas black tea consumption was significantly inversely associated with all-cancer and all-cause mortality…The evidence is accumulating that coffee and tea also have health benefits (see above) and are concentrated sources of dietary phytonutrients.

The discussion of tea is a small part of this review.  Did the Tea Council get what it paid for?  You decide.

Dec 10 2015

Food Navigator-USA Special Edition: Time for Tea

I like the way FoodNavigator-USA collects its recent articles on single topics in one place.  This particular FoodNavigator-USA Special Edition explored the specialty tea business: green tea, innovative formats (e.g., tablets, pods, ready to drink, premium bags), and marketing strategies.

Given the new tea shops appearing one after the other in my neighborhood, the tea business must be booming.

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