Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Industry Cash May 'Turn Food Research into Marketing'

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Industry Cash May 'Turn Food Research into Marketing'

Article excerpt

Warning after stories about Coca-Cola's science funding made headlines. David Matthews reports

Nutrition research risks becoming a branch of marketing for food and drink companies, a leading critic of corporate-sponsored science has warned.

Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, found that only a small fraction of sponsored studies she had analysed would disappoint the companies that funded them.

Writing in JAMA Internal Medicine, she sounded the alarm over the fact that "so much research is sponsored by industry that health professionals and the public may lose confidence in basic dietary advice".

Declining government research spending meant "officers of nutrition research societies tell me that they cannot function without industry funding of journals and conferences", Professor Nestle wrote.

Of 95 studies she has looked at since March 2015, just nine did not give results that were favourable to their sponsors, Professor Nestle told Times Higher Education, giving an update on figures cited in her article.

Her warnings come after two New York Times exposés of industry sponsorship last summer that Professor Nestle said had been a "game changer" in raising awareness of the issue. One claimed that Coca-Cola had funded a non-profit organisation to spread the message - with the help of prominent academics - that exercise was more important than diet in preventing obesity.

The second revealed that firms selling genetically modified crops and their organic food industry opponents had enlisted academic scientists in a "food war" for public opinion. In both cases, universities and academics denied that their work had been influenced, and the businesses denied any sinister motives. …

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