Nutrition Science and The Food Industry are Too Closely Linked
The world of nutritional science and the food industry are inextricably linked. Recent analysis has shown that 1 in 8 peer-reviewed cutting-edge papers in nutrition research has the shadow of a major corporation behind it.
Worse, although this correlation of interest is made explicit in the paper, it often still yields results that favour the corporation.
This study found that the food industry is often involved in studies in major nutrition journals," the researchers wrote. Where the food industry was involved, studies with corporate support were more likely to reach conclusions that favoured companies - six times more likely than their counterparts without food industry involvement."
In recent years, many people have lost trust in nutrition because of media revelations. Even in the most prestigious journals, the correlation of interest is tainting the field of nutrition.
Of the articles in the top 10 nutrition journals in 2018, Australian researchers found that the food industry was behind 13 per cent of the 1,461 papers.
In some peer-reviewed publications, business links were found in 28 per cent of all articles.
The journal called Nutrition Review, founded and funded entirely by food companies - Nestlé, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, among others - had a quarter of the papers on it, favouring these companies.
It would probably be too arbitrary to judge the study's conclusions to be artificially biased simply because of the source of funding.
But from a public health perspective, it is a real problem. When companies fund or sponsor scientific research, mismanaged competing interests are likely to influence what is studied and how it is conducted, whether intentionally or not.
Sugary drinks are a good example of this. Because of the influence of companies such as Coca-Cola in the nutrition community, the dangers of sugar intake have not been known until recent years.
Sacks G, Riesenberg D, Mialon M, Dean S, Cameron AJ (2020) The characteristics and extent of food industry involvement in peer-reviewed research articles from 10 leading nutrition-related journals in 2018. PLOS ONE 15(12): e0243144. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0243144