Thursday, December 17, 2020

BMJ: "Ultra-processed foods and the corporate capture of nutrition—an essay by Gyorgy Scrinis"

 We've pretty much given up on The Lancet after five or six examples that they aren't serious about medicine but the British Medical Journal still delivers what's on the label.

From the BMJ, Published 07 December 2020:

Food corporations have exploited the dominant model in nutrition science to shape the way their ultra-processed products are defended, promoted, and regulated. Gyorgy Scrinis examines their scientific strategies and suggests ways to reframe the debate

In 2015 the New York Times revealed that Coca Cola was covertly funding the Global Energy Balance Network based at the University of Colorado, a research network set up to promote the message that all calories are equal.1 The network’s aim was to show that sugar sweetened beverages are no more responsible for the rise in obesity levels than any other foods or a lack of physical activity.2 In doing so, Coca Cola was copying and adapting the corporate political activities and scientific strategies that have been pioneered and perfected by tobacco, alcohol, and drug companies to defend and promote their products.34

Corporate food and beverage companies such as Coca Cola have engaged in what I will refer to as “corporate scientific activities.” These activities are designed to produce and influence the scientific knowledge used to evaluate, promote, legitimise, and regulate their products. Such activities include funding and conducting in-house nutrition research related to their products; sponsoring scientific seminars and expert meetings; involvement in scientific standards and policy committees; publishing in scholarly journals; funding scientific front groups; and delivering nutrition education programmes.2

Ultra-processed food corporations use these strategies not only to influence the nutritional knowledge related to their products but also to shape the broader concepts that frame scientists’ and the public’s understanding of food and the body. These corporations have in fact benefited from—and seek to amplify and capture—some of the methods and concepts from mainstream nutrition science. The energy balance model being promoted by Coca Cola, for example, is a standard concept used by nutrition scientists to explain weight gain and loss (ie, calories in, calories out), and which Coca Cola has attempted to appropriate and spin in a particular direction. Greater awareness of these strategies is key to recapturing the nutrition agenda and improving population health.


One common corporate scientific activity is to fund nutrition studies designed to generate favourable scientific evidence for a company’s products.2 These studies have an inherent financial conflict of interest. Systematic evaluations of industry funded nutrition studies have—perhaps not surprisingly— found a funding bias effect, whereby study findings are more likely to favour the interests of their industry sponsors.2

However, food corporations are also able to influence nutrition research through the types of nutrition studies they choose not to fund, producing what we might call “not funding” bias. Manufacturers of ultra-processed foods have had little interest in funding research that measures the detrimental effects of their products, and this may partly explain the neglect of such research over the past 50 years....


Hey, that's just like newspapers. The more sophisticated ones spin their narratives by what they don't cover.