Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Trust Me, I Have a White Hat

By Tim Olds

Can you trust obesity research funded by the interests of Big Food?

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

In August, an article in the New York Times attacked one of the world’s leading health experts, Dr Steven Blair, for his involvement in the Global Energy Balance Network, an organisation committed to fighting obesity and “healthier living through the science of energy balance”. This sounds innocuous enough, but the GEBN is heavily funded by Coca-Cola, and the article argued that Coke was trying to shift attention away from the role of food, and particularly sugar-sweetened drinks, in obesity. Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition at New York University, reportedly said that “the Global Energy Balance Network is nothing but a front group for Coca-Cola”.

Public health advocates have long claimed that corporate interests – particularly Big Food, Big Tobacco and Big Pharma – have been recruiting scientists as hired guns and “merchants of doubt”. A number of reviews have shown that studies funded by the food industry tend to produce results that downplay the connection between food and obesity. One study, for example, found that studies funded by soft drink companies are five times more likely to find no association between soft drink intake and obesity than studies without such funding. Another found that soft drink-funded studies found associations about five times smaller than studies with other funding sources.

The influence of Big Food may not be overt. It...

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