Industry-funded studies and research are being published for decades in the US as well as in many other countries around the world. Many people are not aware of it, the findings of such research are usually deemed as unreliable and often exaggerated by health experts around the world. Though all research undergo the same level of check and scrutiny, some studies can manage to pass peer-review even though the results may be heavily biased.
The problem with the findings of such investigations was more common in the 60s and 70s than it is now. During this time period, many of the newly launched products by big industry names were labeled as ‘low fat’ or ‘fat-free’ primarily because the latest research at the time showed fat as the main culprit for obesity and its associated health conditions including diabetes.
Recent research on daily intake and dietary nutrition has shown that fat should not be cut down entirely from the diet. In fact, the body needs HDL or good cholesterol for proper functioning. However, research from the past encouraged people to cut fats out of the diet totally.
The difference between recent scientific evidence and research from the past may just have been due to advancements in research methodology and overall development in medical science but a number of people, including some from the medical community, state that the no fat narrative was mainly promoted by the sugar industry.
In comparison with fats, sugary carbohydrates and foods are much more offer. Not only are they empty calories and offer no nutritional benefits but can significantly contribute to obesity, diabetes, metabolic issues, and even heart disease.
Since many of the studies on the intake of fat were funded by the sugar industry of the time, a connection can be easily made with the promotion of sugary products as healthy and not as harmful especially in comparison with high-fat products.
Today, the chances of biased research getting approved are lower. However, a number of studies, specifically those circulating on the internet, sometimes have conclusions that may not directly be in line with current recommendations by health experts.
For instance, some studies may report that fizzy drinks may not be as harmful or that pineapple juice can boost reproductive and vaginal health.
A real-life example is a study from 2016 that concluded that drinking a glass of grapefruit juice daily can help young moms drive safer and better than before. It should be noted that the study used grapefruit juice from Welch and one of the leading investigators of the study was also a top employee at the same company.
Furthermore, much of the large-scale research can also be funded by big industry names. The Sugar Association, to this day, is known to give millions of dollars of grants for funding studies that can make sugary products look less band.
A 2008 study from Duke University which is said to be funded by the association studied a popular artificial sweetener known as Splenda and concluded that it can cause adverse effects in rats. Splenda and similar brands have been a competitor for the sugar industry and are, therefore, targeted often.
Due to the battle between Splenda and the Sugar Association, an independent inquiry was held to check the Duke-led investigation once again which then showed that the study was not reliable in various ways.
So, does this mean all studies based on nutrition can be misleading? Certainly not but it is possible in research funded by big companies. Make sure to read notes and acknowledgments in a paper to know if it is one of the industry-funded studies that may not be as reliable.