Over the years, we have highlighted how corporate sponsorship of health organizations is a global issue that has raised red flags worldwide.
This longread piece from Australian consumer advocacy organization Choice delves into the issue with significant detail.
- “One of the Australian Institute of Sport’s major sponsors is Gatorade, which produces sports drinks and electrolyte replacements. In advice on hydration, sports drinks are recommended instead of water for exercise bouts of over an hour, partly for rehydration but also as fuel from the carbohydrate and to replace electrolytes (salts) lost in sweat.”
- The issue of whether sports drinks are necessary for most athletes is contentious. Exercise has to be very strenuous for short periods of time (fast running or cycling for an hour, say) or over a long period of time (marathons and other endurance events), for sports drinks to have much advantage over water. While the AIS fact sheets could be said to apply only to elite athletes with highly demanding training and competition schedules, the publications are publicly available to athletes at all levels.”
- “Funding bias is a particular kind of influence found in scientific research, where results tend to support the interests of the sponsor. This issue recently came to the fore when high profile consumer health advocate Dr Ken Harvey resigned from La Trobe University over its sponsorship deal with Swisse multivitamins company. Swisse has a track record of misusing research results, and has been reprimanded for this by the TGA. Dr Harvey was concerned about similar tactics being used in its partnership with La Trobe.”
- “Dr Harvey points out there are numerous ways that sponsors can get the results they want from research, including: designing research in such a way that the product tested will look good (testing against placebo instead of current best practice, for example, or conducting so many separate tests that at least one will come out favorably simply by chance); distorting results to exaggerate positives and minimize negatives; manipulating data; cherry picking the best results (and putting negative findings in “the bottom drawer”).
- “When the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) formed partnerships with Kellogg’s, Unilever, Nestlé, and other food manufacturers in 2005, there was concern that because some of these companies make products that aren’t very nutritious this would appear to be at odds with what dietitians advise people to eat. No one expected the DAA to suddenly extol the virtues of Coco Pops or Kit Kats, but it’s what they wouldn’t say that had people concerned. In particular, concerns were raised that it would affect the organization’s ability to criticize the marketing of junk food to children and to take a strong stand on consumer-friendly food labeling (traffic lights, stars and so on).”