Nutrition is an evolving science. While food and nutrition have been studied for centuries, modern nutrition science is relatively new, which, in part, is why there’s always a new emerging study on the connection between diet and disease. However, a new study pinpoints an alarming discovery between the food industry and its role in nutrition science—and popular soda company Coca-Cola is one of the guilty brands.
New research detailed in the journal PLOS ONE found that 13.4% of 1,461 studies published in the top 10 nutrition journals in 2018 had food industry involvement. This presents a conflict of interest, as these types of studies tend to produce results in favor of that food business, which could potentially mislead you, the consumer.
“Where the food industry is involved, research findings are nearly six times more likely to be favourable to their interests than when there is no food industry involvement,” the researchers wrote. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.)
Some experts have referred to these food industry ties in nutrition science as a credibility crisis, with new findings suggesting “competing interests are contaminating the field of nutrition and dietetics, even at the most reputable journals,” as Science Alert reports.
For example, nearly 25% of all papers analyzed in the journal Nutrition Reviews—which is published by an institute founded by leading food companies including Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Mars, and PepsiCo—declared business interests.
“While it has previously been reported that nutrition research funded by the food industry typically respects scientific standards for conducting and reporting scientific studies, the food industry was itself involved in that assessment, and the issue warrants further detailed exploration,” the study authors write.
Coca-Cola has been accused of controlling study data and results for research it funded, as Springer Nature pointed out in its case study of commercial research funding, which explores concerns about conflicts of interest (COIs).
“While it is beyond the scope of our study to review all Coca-Cola funded research, we note that concerns have been raised elsewhere about the completeness of COIs in studies funded by Coca-Cola on topics of nutrition and physical inactivity,” the study authors wrote.
Following criticism over the years, the soda company published a “Transparency List” of researchers who it funded from 2010 to 2017. However, a feature in the British Medical Journal suggested the list was incomplete and highlighted how Coca-Cola “acts to exercise ‘soft power’ by using its funding to influence everything from conferences to academic positions.”
The authors of the new systematic review propose that articles that include any type of food industry involvement warrant close scrutiny from journals.
Eat This, Not That! reached out to Coca-Cola for a comment.
For more, be sure to read Dangerous Side Effects of Drinking Soda Every Day, According to Science.