Marion Nestle, professor at New York University and prominent commentator on the American food scene, has a lot to say about food. We definitely don’t agree with all of it. However, in this interview with Vox, she makes a lot of sense. At issue is the influence of the food industry on the scientific research surrounding food, nutrition and health.
Nestle has a new book out, aptly named Unsavory Truth: How food companies skew the science of what we eat. In it, she covers the story of a nutrition research community’s deep reliance on industry funding. Nestle points out that industry-funded studies almost always show favorable, food-marketing-friendly results. Why? She contends it is not because of shady scientists, but rather, because corporate funders control the design and interpretation of the research. Nestle explains:
Food companies don’t want to fund studies that won’t help them sell products. So I consider this kind of research marketing, not science. People who do the studies say the conduct of their science is fine, and it well may be. But research on where the bias comes in says the real problem is in the design of the research question — the way the question gets asked — and the interpretation of results. That’s where the influence tends to show up.
Money talks, and the food industry holds the wallet. The Vox interviewer and Nestle agree that this reality is unlikely to change.
Going forward, maintaining a healthy level of skepticism and keeping an eye on funding sources are always helpful strategies when reading nutrition research.