Industry-Sponsored Food Studies

A new study from Denmark shows that moderate levels of butter raise total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol more than olive oil does (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 1, 2015). "Moderate" was defined as two teaspoons per day for someone eating 2000 calories per day. I was amazed to see that this study was funded by the Danish Dairy Research Foundation.

Since the 1940s, scientists have known that people with high levels of LDL ("lousy") cholesterol are at increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, and that the higher the LDL cholesterol, the greater the risk. This double-blind, randomized study of 47 men and women showed that butter increased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol more than the same amount of olive oil, but it did not increase triglycerides, C-reactive protein (CRP), insulin or blood-sugar levels, the markers for increased diabetes risk.

Industry-Funded Research Usually Shows that Their Food is Healthful Marion Nestle, the highly respected professor of Nutrition & Food Studies at New York University, writes: "It's very rare for an industry-funded study to find something that goes against the interests of that industry." She found that 90 percent of studies claiming that soda is healthful were funded by the soda industry. Her blog, Food Politics, found 37 self-serving studies over the past five months showing that sugar, orange juice and high-fat cheese are healthful, and all of these studies were funded by the industries that make these products. Prior to 1980, almost all of the studies on foods were paid for by the food industry. Then the U.S. government began sponsoring major studies on specific foods, and we began to see findings that were critical rather than always favorable. Only since 2000 have most scientific journals required authors to list the sources of funding for their research. Now, whenever you see an article on the health benefits of a food, you should check the source of funding and be skeptical of studies that are funded by a manufacturer who stands to gain from the results of that study. I have received letters from a researcher who is a friend from my old marathon days, telling me that sugar is perfectly safe. He never told me that he received money for his research from the sugar industry.

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