Nutrition Research and Industry Sponsorship

plos.gif  The following two articles were published in PLoS Medicine in January, 2007. Free full text is available.

Katan MB. Does industry sponsorship undermine the integrity of nutrition research? PLoS Med 2007; 4(1):e6.

Excerpt: The commercial success of foods depends more and more on what science says about the effects of these foods on health. Drug companies have tried to influence the scientific record so as to make their products look healthier; are food companies doing the same? In a study published in PLoS Medicine, Lesser et al. investigated this by analyzing 206 publications on the health effects of milk, soft drinks, and fruit juices. Twenty-four of these studies had been funded solely by the industry whose product was investigated, while 52 of the papers declared that they had had no industrial support. The other papers had mixed support or did not declare sponsorship.  The odds that a paper would report a favorable outcome were four to eight times higher when the study was funded by the manufacturer of the beverages in question than when the study was not funded by industry. PubMed Record 

Lesser LI, Ebbeling CB, Goozner M, Wypij D, Ludwig DS. Relationship between funding source and conclusion among nutrition-related scientific articles. PLoS Med 2007; 4(1):e5.

BACKGROUND: Industrial support of biomedical research may bias scientific conclusions, as demonstrated by recent analyses of pharmaceutical studies. However, this issue has not been systematically examined in the area of nutrition research. The purpose of this study is to characterize financial sponsorship of scientific articles addressing the health effects of three commonly consumed beverages, and to determine how sponsorship affects published conclusions.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: Medline searches of worldwide literature were used to identify three article types (interventional studies, observational studies, and scientific reviews) about soft drinks, juice, and milk published between 1 January, 1999 and 31 December, 2003. Financial sponsorship and article conclusions were classified by independent groups of coinvestigators. The relationship between sponsorship and conclusions was explored by exact tests and regression analyses, controlling for covariates. 206 articles were included in the study, of which 111 declared financial sponsorship. Of these, 22% had all industry funding, 47% had no industry funding, and 32% had mixed funding. Funding source was significantly related to conclusions when considering all article types (p = 0.037). For interventional studies, the proportion with unfavorable conclusions was 0% for all industry funding versus 37% for no industry funding (p = 0.009). The odds ratio of a favorable versus unfavorable conclusion was 7.61 (95% confidence interval 1.27 to 45.73), comparing articles with all industry funding to no industry funding.
CONCLUSIONS: Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors’ products, with potentially significant implications for public health.  PubMed Record  


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