Another day, another round of “connect the sponsorship funding dots.”
First up, from Dr. Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog:
“Over the July 4th weekend, a reader sent a link to a paper about to be published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled Increased fruit and vegetable intake has no discernible effect on weight loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
I took a look at the abstract:
Studies to date do not support the proposition that recommendations to increase F/V intake or the home delivery or provision of F/Vs will cause weight loss. On the basis of the current evidence, recommending increased F/V consumption to treat or prevent obesity without explicitly combining this approach with efforts to reduce intake of other energy sources is unwarranted.
This would seem to make some sense, no? But the dismissal of recommendations to increase fruit-and-vegetable consumption sent up red flags.
My immediate question: who paid for this study?”
The answer: Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Mars, Inc., The World Sugar Research Organization, and The American Beverage Association, to name a few.
Next up: a study by Cornell University’s Dr. Brian Wansink (and partly funded by The Corn Refiners Association) on “food fears.”
Bettina Elias Siegel of The Lunch Tray blog, writes:
“This study, co-authored by Aner Tal and Adam Brumberg, seeks to determine why people – mothers in particular – develop so-called “food fears” about certain ingredients (such as sodium, fat, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, MSG and lean finely textured beef) and what the food industry and government can do about it.
The study’s ultimate conclusion, that “food fears” can be addressed by “providing information regarding an ingredient’s history or the other products in which it is used,” is hardly controversial. But some other things about this study raise red flags, starting with the fact that what might be entirely legitimate concerns about particular ingredients are uniformly (and patronizingly) characterized as “food fears,” and that the study’s findings have been overblown and mischaracterized not just in the media but in Dr. Wansink’s own public statements about his data.”
We are all too familiar with hyperbolic websites that make radical claims (i.e.: “this one ingredient causes cancer” or “this one food cures any sort of cancer”) as well as websites that thrive on nutritional fear-mongering.
However, as Elias Siegel points out:
- “Wansink also contrasts what he sees as the largely biased Internet with more trustworthy “mainstream media,” but without acknowledging that almost every local and national news outlet operating in traditional media now also has its own website. (In fact, where did I find Wansink’s own study, the news coverage about it, and every other citation in this post? Online, of course.) Moreover, in this era of ever-growing media segmentation along ideological lines, just because a news source is considered “mainstream” hardly rules out the possibility of political and other biases in its reporting on food-related issues.”
- “When Wansink says in his video that people with “food fears” “look at their favorite websites, they don’t get [food news] from mainstream media,” he has no basis at all on which to make this key distinction. Yes, this subset of respondents may turn to the Internet for food news more than they turn to newspapers or television, but once they’re on the Internet we have absolutely no idea if they’re reading the New York Times or the website of an uninformed blogger.”
- “And, by the way, the Pew Research Internet Project finds that Internet use goes up in direct correlation with one’s level of education, which runs counter to the clear implication that only the less informed or less sophisticated person would choose the Internet over more traditional news sources for their food news.”