by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Unsavory Truth

Feb 10 2020

Industry-funded campaign of the week: Walnuts

A headline in FoodNavigator.com got my attention: “Heart-healthy walnuts could be the next big meat alternative as campaigns build on plant-based trend.

Hoping to exponentially increase consumers’ already growing interest in walnuts, the California Walnut Board today is launching a two-prong marketing effort that will promote the nut’s health benefits and versatility.

The prongs are in-store promotions and a global marketing campaign—in nine countries no less—emphasizing how you only need to eat three handfuls a week to get their health benefits.

The article notes that the health benefits are based on published research.  Alas, it fails to mention that the cited study was ” funded by The California Walnut Commission.”

The study:  Walnuts and Vegetable Oils Containing Oleic Acid Differentially Affect the Gut Microbiota and Associations with Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Follow-up of a Randomized, Controlled, Feeding Trial in Adults at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease.  Alyssa M Tindall, Christopher J McLimans, Kristina S Petersen, Penny M Kris-Etherton, Regina Lamendella.  The Journal of Nutrition, nxz289, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxz289.  

Its conclusion: “…gut microbiota may contribute to the health benefits of walnut consumption in adults at cardiovascular risk.”

The California Walnut Commission has been diligent in funding studies reporting benefits from walnut consumption.  Here’s another one:

The study: Effect of a 2-year diet intervention with walnuts on cognitive decline.  The Walnuts And Healthy Aging (WAHA) study: a randomized controlled trial.  Aleix Sala-Vila, Cinta Valls-Pedret, Sujatha Rajaram, Nina Coll-Padrós, Montserrat Cofán, Mercè Serra-Mir, Ana M Pérez-Heras, Irene Roth, Tania M Freitas-Simoes, Mónica Doménech, Carlos Calvo,1,2 Anna López-Illamola, Edward Bitok, Natalie K Buxton, Lynnley Huey, Adam Arechiga, Keiji Oda, Grace J Lee, Dolores Corella, Lídia Vaqué-Alcázar, Roser Sala-Llonch, David Bartrés-Faz, Joan Sabaté, and Emilio Ros.  Am J Clin Nutr 2020;00:1–11.

Conclusions:Walnut supplementation for 2 y had no effect on cognition in healthy elders. However, brain fMRI and post hoc analyses by site suggest that walnuts might delay cognitive decline in subgroups at higher risk.”

Conflicts of interest: AS-V, SR, JS, and ER have received research funding through their institutions from the California Walnut Commission, Folsom, CA, USA. JS and ER were nonpaid members of the California Walnut Commission Scientific Advisory Council. ER was a paid member of the California Walnut Commission Health Research Advisory Group. JS has received honoraria from the CaliforniaWalnut Commission for presentations. AS-V has received support from the CaliforniaWalnut Commission to attend professional meetings. All other authors report no conflicts of interest.

Comment: Some of the authors of this study work at Loma Linda, a university run by vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists.  As is unusual for industry-sponsored studies, this one found no delay in cognitive decline among older people eating walnuts.  But the study’s conclusions spin the results to suggest that walnuts might, in fact, delay cognitive decline in higher risk subgroups—an interpretation bias.

Walnuts are good foods and eating them instead of candy or other high calorie junk-food snacks makes sense.  Are walnuts better for you than any other nut?  This study does not address that question.  Studies funded by walnut trade associations have one and only one purpose: marketing walnuts.

As a reminder, I discussed issues related to sponsored research—including why the conduct of the science is not the problem with these studies—in my book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

Nov 5 2018

Why I so enjoy industry-funded studies: this time, chewing gum

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.

Oct 30 2018

Published today! Unsavory Truth!

Now published: my new book about how food company sponsorship of nutrition research affects public health.  For information about the book—blurbs, reviews, tweets, how to get—click here.

For my public speaking engagements about the book, click here.

If you are in New York, join the launch party at NYU today, 5:00 p.m., Bobst Library 3rd floor.  RSVP here.

And here are some early reviews:

Oct 29  Jane Brody.  Confused by nutrition research?  New York Times.

Oct 28  Hailey Eber. How the food industry fooled us into eating junk.  New York Post, 42-43.

Oct 23  Nestle M.  Superfoods are a marketing ploy (excerpt).  The Atlantic .

Oct 22  Àlex Pérez.  Una verdad desagradable no vende.  ElPiscolabis (Spain).

Oct 18 Nature Magazine (2018;562:334-335): Felicity Lawrence reviews Deborah Blum’s The Poison Squad and Unsavory Truth as “Poisoned Platefuls.”

Oct 2  Science Magazine.  Cyan James, “A nutrition expert aims a critical eye at the research and marketing practices of food companies.”

Oct 29 2018

Tomorrow: Unsavory Truth is out

Tomorrow is the official publication date for Unsavory Truth.  Here’s the launch invitation.

For information about the book, click here.

For my other public speaking engagements about the book, click here.

Enjoy!

Oct 22 2018

Unsavory Truth: A peek at chapter 4

I just got an advance copy of my new book about food company sponsorship of nutrition research and its effects on public health—to be published next week on October 30.

To get a taste (sorry) of the book, here are the first two pages of chapter 4.  If you would like to read the Sugar Association’s letter to me and my reply, I’ve included links to them after this excerpt.

Want to read the rest of the letter and my reply?

Oct 15 2018

Unsavory Truth: A peek at page 2

Coming October 30: My new book about food company sponsorship of nutrition research and its effects on public health.

Here’s what page 2 has to say:

Oct 8 2018

Unsavory Truth: the Table of Contents

Coming October 30: My new book about food company sponsorship of nutrition research and its effects on public health.

And here’s what’s in it:

Oct 1 2018

Unsavory Truth: Early reviews

Coming October 30:  My new book about food company sponsorship of nutrition research and its effects on public health.

The Kirkus review (August 1)

A leading nutritionist asks whether consumers can trust highly publicized research into whether food and beverages are healthy and safely produced.

Nestle (Emerita, Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health/New York Univ.; Big Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), 2015, etc.), who has a doctorate in molecular biology and a master’s degree in public health nutrition and has conducted decades of research into food producers, is perfectly positioned for this topic. She makes the convincing case that because so much of the research is paid for by industries that benefit from the results, buyers should interpret the results skeptically. Many of Nestle’s previous books, articles, and academic studies focused on specific types of food. Here, the author turns her attention to large corporations, investigating why they pay for supposedly independent researchers, why the quality of the research might be compromised by conflicts of interests, how consumers can separate reliable science from compromised science, and why consumers should lobby legislators, government regulatory agencies, and universities for reforms regarding the disclosure of conflicts. Nestle emphasizes research paid for and disseminated by the sugar/candy industry, producers of dairy foods, marketers of meat, and—in its own chapter, “A Case Study in Itself”—the soda giant Coca-Cola. Since the author is a prolific nutrition researcher who has accepted funding that could involve conflicts of interest, she admirably scrutinizes her own policies of funding and how she discloses it. Ultimately, researchers must act as ethicists as well as scientists. When her own studies and those of fellow researchers become marketing tools for multinational conglomerates, the author admits that she feels queasy about how consumers might be misled by the marketing. On the other hand, she writes, some studies paid for by industry can be trusted scientifically—and be marketed and advertised responsibly.

Nestle proves yet again that she is a unique, valuable voice for engaged food consumers.

Other early reviews & interviews based on the bound galley proofs

Sept 25 La Stampa (Italy): “I cibi di lunga vita sono illusori e troppi sponsor li promuovono.”

Sept 24  Publishers Weekly: ” a groundbreaking look at how food corporations influence nutrition research and public
policy.”

Aug 13 Booklist review: “This well-documented, accessible venture makes a compelling argument.”

Aug 1  Kirkus review: “Nestle proves yet again that she is a unique, valuable voice for engaged food consumers.”

July 17  Phil Lempert’s Lempert Report: Get ready for a new era of transparency (video)

July 9  David Wineberg, “Nutrition: conflict of interest as a career,” Medium.com.

Feb 12 Finnish Public Radio interview about Unsavory Truth (Google Translate, English)

Jan 31 Profile in New Scientist: The Unpalatable Truth about Your Favorite foods