PLOS Medicine, the leading open-access medical journal, often has wonderful articles on public health nutrition.
We especially appreciate that PLOS Medicine “is committed to upholding the highest ethical standards in medical publishing, including the management and disclosure of conflicts of interest in reporting, review, and publication; transparency in the review and publication process; data sharing and reuse of work; authors’ retention of copyright; open-access publication with no restrictions on availability and dissemination; and avoiding the conflicts of interest presented by advertising for drugs and medical devices and exclusive sale of reprints.”
This article, titled “Financial Conflicts of Interest and Reporting Bias Regarding the Association between Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews,” examines how industry sponsors’ financial interests might bias the conclusions of scientific research.
Among the researchers’ findings?
“The researchers identified 18 conclusions from 17 systematic reviews that had investigated the association between SSB consumption and weight gain or obesity. In six of these reviews, a financial conflict of interest with a food industry was disclosed. Among the reviews that reported having no conflict of interest, 83.3% of the conclusions were that SSB consumption could be a potential risk factor for weight gain. By contrast, the same percentage of reviews in which a potential financial conflict of interest was disclosed concluded that the scientific evidence was insufficient to support a positive association between SSB consumption and weight gain, or reported contradictory results and did not state any definitive conclusion about the association between SSB consumption and weight gain.”
It is worth pointing out that these researchers are not calling for industry sponsorship of nutrition research to be entirely avoided. “Rather,” they explain, “clear guidelines and principles (for example, sponsors should sign contracts that state that they will not be involved in the interpretation of results) need to be established to avoid dangerous conflicts of interest.”
Food for thought.