Industry Funding may Bias Nutritional Health Research

Not a truly surprising finding, given the enormous profits at stake for the Nestle’s of the world.

PLoS Medicine – Relationship between Funding Source and Conclusion among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles

Funding source was significantly related to conclusions when considering all article types (p = 0.037). For interventional studies, the proportion with unfavorable conclusions was 0% for all industry funding versus 37% for no industry funding (p = 0.009). The odds ratio of a favorable versus unfavorable conclusion was 7.61 (95% confidence interval 1.27 to 45.73), comparing articles with all industry funding to no industry funding. Conclusions: Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors’ products, with potentially significant implications for public health.

Note the zero, as in, the number of unfavorable conclusions in wholly industry funded interventional studies.

interventional study—if humans consumed, or if human tissue was exposed to, a food or food component with the intention of measuring a biological response

Well, not surprising. You can exert much tighter control on an interventional study where you control most of the variables. Seems like there’s some predestination going on here!

What do the authors think is going on here?

(1) Industrial sponsors may fund only those studies that they believe will present their products in a favorable light, or their competitors’ products in an unfavorable light. In support of this possibility, all studies funded entirely by industry were characterized as “benefit” or “antagonism” with regard to the product under study (none were characterized as “no relationship”). That is, industrial organizations do not seem to sponsor articles about products in which they have no financial interest. (2) Investigators might formulate hypotheses, design studies, or analyze data in ways that are consistent with the financial interests of their industrial sponsors. (3) Industrial sponsors or investigators may choose to delay or not publish findings that have negative implications to the sponsor’s product. (4) Authors of scientific reviews may search and interpret the literature selectively, in ways consistent with the sponsor’s interests. (5) Scientific reviews arising from industry-supported scientific symposia, often published as journal supplements, may over- or under-represent certain viewpoints, if presenters whose opinions conflict with the sponsor’s financial interests are not invited to participate.

All good points. Remember next time you read an article in the paper about how exercise is much more important in determining obesity compared to your average sugary drink. Remember that a 12 Oz can of coke contains 39 grams of sugar, or 8 teaspoons worth!

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