A look at how food makers spin science into marketing

Portland Press Herald
Candice Choi

One of the industry’s most powerful tactics is the funding of nutrition research. It carries the weight of academic authority, becomes a part of scientific literature and generates headlines.

“Hot oatmeal breakfast keeps you fuller for longer,” declared a Daily Mail article on a study funded by Quaker Oats.

“Study: Diet beverages better for losing weight than water,” said a CBS Denver story about research funded by Coke and Pepsi’s lobbying group.

The studies have their defenders.

Food companies say they follow guidelines to ensure scientific integrity, and that academics have the right to publish no matter what they find. Many in the research world also see industry funding as critical for advancing science as competition for government funding has intensified.

It’s not surprising that companies would pay for research likely to show the benefits of their products. But critics say the worry is that they’re hijacking science for marketing purposes, and that they cherry-pick or hype findings.

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