The dialogue around industry-funded science continues to evolve, and a new article in Men’s Journal magazine sheds further light and nuance.
- “Is milk good for you or bad for you? The question is something that scientists and health journalists have been giving mixed signals about for years. Every aspect of it — from the skim vs. full-fat debate to even the idea that it’s good for your bone health because of all the calcium — has ridden the roller coaster of scientific opinion.”
- “That’s why when we saw the bold, clear title of a report called “Milk and Dairy Products: Good or Bad for Human Health? An Assessment of the Totality of Scientific Evidence,” we were ready to rejoice. Has the answer to all of our questions finally arrived? Not so fast.”
- “First, we looked to the paper’s stated “Competing interests and funding” section. There we found acknowledgement that three out of the review’s six authors had received research funding from something called the Dairy Research Institute — a registered trademark of Dairy Management Inc., an industry group whose stated purpose is “to increase demand for dairy through research, education, and innovation” (taken from its website). To their credit, the authors acknowledged their conflicts of interest, saying the sponsors had no input in their research. But should we take their word for it?”
- “The main issue with industry-funded research is not so much the quality of the work but rather how scientists ask the initial research question and how they interpret the results, says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. “The science could be fine,” she says, “but industry-funded studies tend to get spun to favor the sponsor.”
- “Michael Moss, the Pulitzer prize–winning journalist and author of Salt, Sugar, Fat says he has known scientists who took money from Coca Cola but readily bit the hand that fed them. “I don’t rule out industry funding as a deal breaker,” he says, but it’s important to consider what a study isn’t telling you. An industry group may be funding research on a very specific aspect of their product they’re confident they can use to slap a health claim on the label, but the context of the whole product is what’s relevant to consumers.”