We have always been outspoken with our concerns of food nutrition research that is sponsored/funded by the food industry. We’re concerned that many food industry giants are financial contributors to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Evidence Analysis Library.
As Marion Nestle explains in this post, food industry sponsorship of research is cause for concern.
The latest controversy surrounds a study which concluded that the average American underreports their caloric intake. To those of us in the nutrition field, that isn’t remotely groundbreaking (surely we can all think to 24-hour dietary recalls that did not reflect a client’s actual eating habits).
This study, though, comes with some eyebrow-raising details. Dr. Nestle explains:
“Question #1: Why would anyone do a study like this? Answer: Look who sponsored it: Coca-Cola!
Question #2: Why would Coca-Cola want to fund a study to cast doubt on information derived from NHANES: See the Abstract:
The confluence of these results and other methodological limitations suggest that the ability to estimate population trends in caloric intake and generate empirically supported public policy relevant to diet-health relationships from U.S. nutritional surveillance is extremely limited.
And see the paper’s conclusion:
As such, there are no valid population-level data to support speculations regarding trends in caloric consumption and the etiology of the obesity epidemic.
Got that? If data from NHANES are not valid, then studies showing a correlation between sodas and obesity are not valid, and recommendations to drink less soda are unjustified.
This study, then, is a classic example of why food industry sponsorship of nutrition research is so pernicious. Coca-Cola is systematically recruiting sympathetic nutrition researchers to cast doubt on science linking soda consumption to health problems”
As always, this begs a few questions:
1) Why does the Academy allow the likes of Coca-Cola to teach continuing education to dietitians?
2) Why does the Academy partners with a company like Coca-Cola, which is always looking for a way to deflect blame from its contributions to Americans’ worsening health?
3) Why does the Academy usually keep quiet when controversies like these come up? Our theory: when a company partially funds your organization, you’re surely a lot less likely to say anything critical.