Food industry funding of nutrition studies is more pervasive and influential than is generally thought, according to a new scientific paper.
The paper in PLOS, as reported in Scientific American, reports that in the top 10 scientific journals about nutrition, some 13% of peer-reviewed studies were written by persons with funding or other ties to the food & beverage industry. Of those papers, more than half reported a favorable finding – that a given food or ingredient was either beneficial to health, or less harmful than had been supposed.
The paper’s lead author, Gary Sacks, a public health scientist at Deakin University in Australia, said this situation is significant because poor diet is the No. 1 global cause of bad health. “What this study shows is that when the food industry is involved, it’s skewing the research agenda to things that matter to the food industry, as opposed to you,” Sacks told Scientific American.
Of the articles funded by food companies or trade groups, 55% were favorable about the health benefits of whatever the subject was. Of those not so funded, only 10% were favorable.
Nutrition journal editors suggest that industry funding is necessary because government or other neutral sources often are not available. Sacks suggests having industry funding for such studies put into a common pool, administered by an outside, independent entity.