Recent analyses have documented bias in pharmaceutical studies funded by industry. Now, an analysis from Children's Hospital Boston finds a similar phenomenon in scientific articles about nutrition, particularly in studies of beverages. The analysis – the first systematic one performed on nutrition studies – found that beverage studies funded solely by industry were four to eight times more likely to have conclusions favorable to sponsors' financial interest than were studies with no industry funding. Findings are published online in the January 9 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.
When this was reported on NPR's Morning Edition, a spokesman for the food and beverages association said that they were proud of the studies they fund, that the studies were good science, and that they were published in peer-reviewed journals.
How can such studies be biased? By the sorts of questions they ask. If a food or beverage company announces the availability of funds for scientific research and asks researchers to propose studies, they will almost certainly chose to fund those studies whose result are likely to be favorable to them.
In this way food and beverage companies use the mechanisms of valid scientific research to generate advertising material for themselves.