It seems like every day a buzzy new study touts a surprising fact about how food affects our bodies, and publications—including this one, admittedly—eat it up. Now, a new report by the Associated Press has uncovered something that shouldn't really surprise us: Much of this research is funded by food manufacturers with clear agendas.
We're used to reading about studies that reach counterintuitive conclusions, like "children who eat candy tend to weigh less than those who don't." In the case of this non-hypothetical example, the research was paid for by a trade association representing the makers of Butterfinger, Hershey and Skittles—a group that would obviously like us to believe that it's OK to eat candy. This investigation found that one of the study's authors, a professor of nutrition at Louisiana State University, called the results "thin and clearly padded." The sugary association proudly touted the results nevertheless.
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Nutrition research is one of the food industry's most powerful public relations tools. Food companies claim to ensure scientific integrity by following the proper guidelines and giving academics the right to publish their results whether or not the findings are in the organization's favor. But the A.P. found that of 156 food studies published in the last year, 168 were favorable toward the groups that funded them.