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Why You Should Never Believe Another Nutrition Study Again

You're a certified clean eater. You ate kalebeforeit became a thing. And you stay up to date on all the nutrition research published online—but should you even bother?

A revealing investigation from Marion Nestle—author, NYU professor, and all-around food revolution queen—suggests that you need to think twice before you trust nutrition studies. Why? It's all about the money.

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This past spring, Nestle began a little experiment. Every week on her blog, Food Politics, she posted summaries of nutrition studies funded by food industry groups.  The goal? To see how many of these studies end up favoring the company that forked over the cash.

So far, the results are pretty sad: As of September 14, 2015, the score was 55 to 3. Out of 58 industry-funded studies published since March, 95% have produced a favorable result for the funding company—and life is basically a lie.

Ninety-five percent seemed almost unbelievable—even to hardcore skeptics like us who read industry-funded studies all the time. So we asked Nestle: What gives? And have things always been this way?

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"As government research funding has become more competitive, food companies have seen an opening and have moved in to fill the gap," she told us.  "The research they fund, however, is rarely designed to answer a question of curiosity. It is…designed to produce information that can be used for marketing purposes."

It works like this: Companies use their money to steer research. That research is trumpeted in the media with splashy headlines, like Wild Blueberries Prevent Diabetes, or Avocados Lower Your Cholesterol. Intrigued readers see those headlines and read those articles—which usually have no mention of the funding source. And, if all goes according to the master plan, you go out and buy more food. Pretty slimy, right?

Nestle agrees, and that's why she started this new blog series. She wants to get people talking about the huge financial biases present in a lot of nutrition research.

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To be fair, industry funding isn't 100% evil. Research—especially high-quality research like human trials—costs money, and that money needs to come from somewhere. If it weren't for industry funding, we would certainly know less about nutrition. And financial motivation isn't the only type of bias that skews results: A scientist's personal beliefs, politics, and ideologies can come into play. There's confirmation bias, too—the tendency to interpret evidence in a way that confirms your original hypothesis. This particular bias is so powerful it once convinced much of the scientific community that they had discovered a new form of radiation—even though it didn't actually exist.

MORE:12 "Health" Foods Proven to be Ridiculously Unhealthy

So what does this mean for you, clean eater? Basically, Nestle's project serves as a reminder: Don't latch on to every nutrition revelation you read about online, especially if it's industry funded. Luckily, these studies are pretty easy to spot once you know what to look for.

It's best if you can actually get your hands on the study itself—not a secondary article written about the study. Some scientific journals are open-access, meaning they're free for all to read (PLOS Oneis a notable example). Good scientific journals require authors to disclose all funding sources and financial conflicts of interest; you can usually find this info at the bottom of the first page, or at the very end of the study.

While you're reading that statement, keep an eye out for vague "organizations" that provide funding. One example: The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee. It sounds official and unbiased, but it's really just an industry front that bankrolls and promotes research on java.

Sadly, most journals aren't accessible for free, and all you can do is read a news story that probably doesn't disclose funding source. That's when you need to put on your critical thinking cap, Nestle says.

MORE:10 Healthy Snacks Every Stress Eater Needs

"If the title of an article says that a particular food, drink, or supplement improves health, and the information seems surprising, that's a good hint that the study may have been funded by a company that benefits from that result," she explains. Start browsing headlines for claims about single foods that seem too good to be true. After a while, you'll be able to spot those suckers from a mile away. (Plus, you can follow along with Nestle's ongoing blog series.)

The bottom line: Take industry-funded research with a big-ass grain of salt. It's fine to consider them—read them, question them, file them in the "huh, that's interesting" part of your brain. But it's probably not wise to radically shift your diet because of them.






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Date: 17.12.2018, 07:48 / Views: 85365