Food Industry “Funding Effect”

Food Industry “Funding Effect”
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He who pays the piper calls the tune: studies funded by the dairy and soda industries appear to be even more biased than studies funded by drug companies.

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When food companies claim there is science to support their wild claims, it may very well be true. Multibillion dollar industries have the cash to spread around to research establishments.

The “funding effect” describes the uncanny correlation between the conclusion desired by a funding source, and the conclusion reached by the researchers being funded. The funding effect, and the strategy of “manufacturing uncertainty”, have been used with great success by manufacturers of dangerous products, to oppose public health regulation. To resist regulation, industries fund scientific reviews to downplay the risks of their products. Tobacco is the classic case, but producers have funded studies downplaying the risks of asbestos, benzene, lead, etc.

This has been studied extensively in the pharmaceutical industry. Drug company-funded studies just happen to be about four times more likely to reach a pro-industry conclusion than independent studies. But: “In contrast, little information is available regarding the prevalence or impact of funding by the food industry on nutrition research. Whereas bias in pharmaceutical research could have an adverse effect on the health of millions of individuals who take medications, bias in nutrition research could have an adverse effect on the health of everyone.”

So, they looked at soda and milk. Are studies funded by Coca Cola or the Dairy Council more likely to reach favorable conclusions about their sponsors’ products?

Turns out, even worse than the drug companies. “The main finding of this study is that scientific articles about commonly consumed beverages funded entirely by industry were approximately four to eight times more likely to be favorable to the financial interests of the sponsors than articles without industry-related funding.”

“Of particular interest,” check this out, “none of the interventional studies on [soda or milk] with all-industry support had an unfavorable conclusion. Not one.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to espensorvik / Flickr

When food companies claim there is science to support their wild claims, it may very well be true. Multibillion dollar industries have the cash to spread around to research establishments.

The “funding effect” describes the uncanny correlation between the conclusion desired by a funding source, and the conclusion reached by the researchers being funded. The funding effect, and the strategy of “manufacturing uncertainty”, have been used with great success by manufacturers of dangerous products, to oppose public health regulation. To resist regulation, industries fund scientific reviews to downplay the risks of their products. Tobacco is the classic case, but producers have funded studies downplaying the risks of asbestos, benzene, lead, etc.

This has been studied extensively in the pharmaceutical industry. Drug company-funded studies just happen to be about four times more likely to reach a pro-industry conclusion than independent studies. But: “In contrast, little information is available regarding the prevalence or impact of funding by the food industry on nutrition research. Whereas bias in pharmaceutical research could have an adverse effect on the health of millions of individuals who take medications, bias in nutrition research could have an adverse effect on the health of everyone.”

So, they looked at soda and milk. Are studies funded by Coca Cola or the Dairy Council more likely to reach favorable conclusions about their sponsors’ products?

Turns out, even worse than the drug companies. “The main finding of this study is that scientific articles about commonly consumed beverages funded entirely by industry were approximately four to eight times more likely to be favorable to the financial interests of the sponsors than articles without industry-related funding.”

“Of particular interest,” check this out, “none of the interventional studies on [soda or milk] with all-industry support had an unfavorable conclusion. Not one.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to espensorvik / Flickr

Doctor's Note

Be sure to check out my other videos on industry influence

For more context, also check out my associated blog posts: Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board Accused of Making Illegally Deceptive Claims, and Aspartame: Fibromyalgia & Preterm Birth.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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