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Drinks studies skewed

10th January 2007

06052006_ColaBlueSky1.jpgScientific studies into the health effects of foods and beverages may be skewed if funding from the study comes from a food industry player, according to a recent paper in the journal PLoS Medicine.

Researchers led by David Ludwig, director of a child optimal weight programme at the Children's Hospital in Boston, studied 111 separate studies for signs of bias in favour of products made by major financial contributors.

The team concentrated on research about milk, soft drinks and juice, which are often controversial, highly profitable, and aggressively marketed to children.

Using the Medline database at the National Library of Medicine, Ludwig and his colleagues weeded out papers published between 1999 and 2003 which didn't look at health outcomes in humans, or in which funding sources weren't specified.

Other team members then analysed the papers once they had been stripped of identifying information.

The team found that studies funded by industry were four to eight times more likely to show bias in favour of sponsors' products than studies that did not receive industry funding, suggesting that financial conflict could provide fundamental bias in scientific literature.

 

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