Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

A Sour Taste from Artificial Sweeteners

By Guy Nolch

The food industry has been accused of influencing research that it sponsors.

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When a US President-elect dismisses climate science with a wave of his hairspray or a suburban parent rejects vaccination, it’s easy to blame the internet for propagating misinformation and prescribe a better way to educate the public about how to evaluate whether their sources are credible or incredible. But even the gold standard of evidence, peer review, can be gamed.

Last month a JAMA Internal Medicine meta-analysis exploring bias in industry-sponsored food research (http://tinyurl.com/o9e63el) found that “industry-sponsored studies were more likely to have conclusions favorable to industry,” such as “significantly smaller harmful effects for the association of soft drink consumption with energy intake and body weight”. Lead author Prof Lisa Bero of The University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre noted that the conclusions of the industry-sponsored papers “do not always agree with results, but can be ‘spun’ to ... influence how research is understood by the lay community”.

In September Bero had separately published a review in PLOS ONE (http://tinyurl.com/nkavddd) which found that reviews funded by artificial sweetener companies were nearly 17 times more likely to have favourable results, with 42% of...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.