The sugar industry paid scientists for decades and funded hundreds of studies to blame fat heart disease and exculpate the sugar. This week, it has published an analysis of archival documents that could embitter even the very existence Charlie and Chocolate Factory.
But it is not, not at all, the only case: the history of the scientific study of nutrition is full of traps, kickbacks and half-truths that have nurtured (or tried to nurture) the recommendations of the authorities of half the world compromising its credibility to limits unsuspected. For the love of God, if they tried to convince us that the wine made us better drivers are capable of anything.
The coincidences of nutrition research
The case of respected researchers from Harvard receiving what would be more than $ 50,000 today for work on saturated fats, there add the revelations laid bare the attempt to Coca-Cola to disassociate their products obesity or makes just a couple of months, the study said that cranberry juice was good against urinary tract infections . A study, it must be said, was done with women who had no urinary tract infection. What could go wrong?
Marion Nestle, despite what the name might make us think, is one of the scourges of the industry on these issues. This professor at the University of New York they say that can recognize the studies that have been funded by industry only see the name.
And no, it is not a superpower, is that it is very easy: the study of grape juice that linked the beginning of the article is called ” Grape juice, cognitive function and driving performance, ” says that consumption of this type of juice conductive improve our skills and, coincidentally, is funded by Welch’s, an American company that has been making grape juice since 1869.
There is more. A journal of the British Medical Journal published a study called “Ingestion of nuts in adults with diabetes risk” and, he says, including nuts in the diet of patients with diabetes does wonders. If down until near the end they see who funded the study: the Californian Commission de la Nuez. We continue to bingo because not think it’s an isolated thing.
A systemic and dangerous bias
In 2007, David Ludwig and his team at Childrens Hospital Boston conducted a meta-analysis to study whether private funding skewing research. In it was discovered that of the 52 independent studies analyzed, 20 of them were unfavorable.
In contrast, of the 24 studies funded by industry analyzed, only 3 were not favorable. That is, the success rate was reduced from 38% to 12.5. And Nestle jobs that figure down below ten percent: of the 168 funded studies that have reviewed, only twelve are negative.
In this systematic review of sugary drinks (smoothies, juices or soft drinks) conducted by researchers at the University of Navarra he found that studies funded by industry are four to eight times more favorable to products independents.
It may seem a historical curiosity, but unfortunately not. In the case of sugar, the industry achieved in 1977 the US Department of Agriculture recommended to minimize saturated fats, pushing the hungry masses of consumers to ultrasonically products and creating a huge public health problem.
You may also like to read another article on xWorld: Cancer, hypertension, overweight, obesity, memory, dental health: This we mean sugar!
Why does this happen?
There are several cross – cutting issues affecting the relationship between science and business. The first, no doubt, it is funding. Although there are always problems financing the eyes of scientists, it is true that there are sexier (for funding) than other areas. And do the umpteenth test of a peach juice is not particularly attractive.
In addition, nutrition is very close to area producers. And not only for this type of study, but especially to R & D. In improving traditional producers and the creation of new varieties involved many (independent or not) scientists and that means that there is a permanent flow of personnel, resources and information between academia and industry.
But probably the biggest problem is that in science, corruption is usually not as rough, is more subtle. Why the alcohol industry often supports studies on cardiovascular disease and not on cancer? Because alcohol causes cancer, but in certain circumstances it may be cardio protective (or even that).
Science continues to be an open conversation between researchers disagree and most of the time, researchers have done studies discussed today really believe in what they say. Private funding acts unbalancing the conversation: thanks to its resources, minority voices become more important than they would under normal circumstances and create the ‘reasonable doubt’ in the consumer’s mind.
Why do they call when they mean marketing science?
In a world built around trust, these practices threaten to compromise the health of much of society. When they not undermine the credibility of institutions, promote misinformation and pseudoscience in public opinion.
But the truth is that most scientists do not participate in such practices. And the industry has tried again and again to appropriate the social prestige of science and, by the way, the committed until the point that the average consumer does not know what to think. What is good? What is bad? How can we be sure if even the experts we trust deceive us? What can we do?
There are no easy answers. And in this world alone. But the best long – term strategy is to rely on the scientific consensus. For although we see that they can become biased, they are the best way we have to approach slowly, indeed.