Food & Nature
Many questioning the accuracy of food research due to the financial ties between researchers and food companies
Everywhere you look these days, you will find media, government, and academia telling us all how we should be eating for health and vitality. But with so much conflicting information out there, how can you know for sure what is actually true, and what is simply industry propaganda pushing fake health advice for the purpose of maximizing the bottom lines of corporate food interests?
Many skeptics are asking important questions like this as it becomes ever-clearer that many of the suggested health guidelines pushed on the masses actually originate from food corporations that stand to benefit from people consuming things like refined sugar, for instance, or industrially-processed fats like those derived from canola and soybeans — the types of things commonly found in fake, processed food.
Take a recent study out of Canada, which tried to push the narrative that low-sugar diets are unsubstantiated in terms of promoting health. The findings were so anomalous to common sense that skeptics decided to look into any potential financial ties between the study’s authors and the junk food industry which, as it turns out, were rather prominent.
According to reports, the study was funded by an organization known as the International Life Science Institute (ILSI), which is backed by some of the biggest players in processed food: Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, and the Hershey Company, to name just a few.
One might assume that this pertinent information was hidden from the public. But the fact of the matter is that it was not — the authors fully disclosed that their research was predicated upon arriving at findings that benefited their sponsors, and this is perhaps the most concerning aspect of such research, which today is present in nearly every scientific journal.
“What makes the case exceptional is not [that] the fast-food companies, including those that make sugar-sweetened beverages, funded a study that concluded the current sugar-limiting advice is flawed,” writes Carly Weeks for Canada’s The Globe and Mail. “It’s the fact the relationship and the potential conflict of interest was discussed so openly.”
Dietitian groups speak out of both sides of their mouths when it comes to financial conflicts of interest
Whether or not it is enough to simply include a quick line at the end of a study explaining a financial conflict of interest, offering a type of “thank you” to its sponsors, is the subject of considerable debate. Especially as the conclusions of such studies, in many cases, end up becoming policy.
In Canada, the group Dietitians of Canada says it has certain checks in place to protect against such conflicts of interests. But this type of admission by the group comes across as disingenuous, to say the least, when it is simultaneously planning a sponsorship event this June at which the Canadian Sugar Institute (CSI) will be stocking the breakfast buffet. (RELATED: See more reports of industry corruption at Corruption.news)
Other examples in Canada include the University of Toronto’s Program in Food Safety, Nutrition, and Regulatory Affairs, which openly admits on its website that it accepts cash from CSI, PepsiCo, Mead Johnson, and others. Flawed research that takes place at schools like this, and from which receive funding from sponsors such as this, is what governments use to develop food policy — which many see as a glaring problem for public health.
“Conflict of interest guidelines and disclosure policies can only go so far,” Weeks, writing for The Globe and Mail, adds. “At the end of the day, we have to remember the ultimate goals of the food industry are not aligned, and sometimes compete with, nutrition researchers and organizations. So when they fund a conference, study or program, think carefully about exactly what they may be getting in return.”
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