Starting this past March, nutrition expert, author, and New York University professor Dr. Marion Nestle has been posting a series of five industry-funded nutrition studies with conclusions favorable to the sponsor.
The current tally? From the 82 of these studies she has shared, 76 have conclusions favorable to the sponsor, and six have gone against sponsors’ interests.
The latest round of five was published today on Dr. Nestle’s Food Politics blog.
Here is one example:
“Dairy products consumption and metabolic syndrome in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Guo-Chong Chen, Ignatius M. Y. Szeto, Li-Hua Chen, Shu-Fen Han, Yan-Jie Li, Rina van Hekezen, and Li-Qiang Qin.. Science Reports. 2015; 5: 14606. Published online 2015 Sep 29. doi: 10.1038/srep14606
- Conclusions: Higher dairy consumption significantly reduced MetS [metabolic syndrome] by 17% in the cross-sectional/case-control studies…and by 14%…in cohort studies….Our findings suggest an inverse dose-response relationship between dairy consumption and risk of MetS.
- Funding: This study was supported by Yili Innovation Center, Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co., Ltd. The funding source had no role in the design or conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data; or preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.
- Comment: The Yili Group is a privately owned Chinese company headquartered in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, engaged in processing and manufacturing milk products, including ice-cream, powdered milk, milk tea powder, sterilized milk and fresh milk.”
As we have mentioned in the past, all aspects of a study — not just funding — should be analyzed and given consideration. Industry funding does not automatically make the science incorrect. Nevertheless, industries (oil, gas, tobacco, alcohol, food, etc.) have a proven track record of funding research to create doubt, and systematic reviews of research have shown that industry-friendly biases are more common in industry-funded studies.
This is an issue of framing (what questions are asked, how are they asked, how are results interpreted, and to what end?), more than anything else.