Some people, when confronted with the idea that a lot of nutrition research and recommendations are biased by industry, are rather skeptical. Surely our medical researchers are looking out for our best interests. They’re in the business because they care about making people healthy, right?
Well, maybe. I’m sure many of them have the best intentions. But who decides what research is actually published and publicized? The answers are often surprising–the same companies that benefit from the status quo: the sale and consumption of unnatural, unhealthy, processed foods.
One excellent example is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly known as the American Dietetic Association) and their well-meaning sounding web site eatright.org, which proclaims “Food and Nutrition Information You Can Trust.” It all looks good and sounds good, right? Go have a look. I’ll wait.
Ok, now that you’re back, did you happen to notice their Corporate Sponsors page? Of course not. It’s not featured in the navigation bar. It’s not highlighted at all on the site. Odd.
Well, as of this writing, the list contains big food names, such as:
- The Coca-Cola Company (seriously)
- Hershey (I’m not making this up)
- National Dairy Council
- Abbott Nutrition
- General Mills
- Mars (check for youself)
- Pepsico (uh huh)
The great irony here, if you haven’t already figured it out, is that truly healthy people are likely to avoid the products that most of the companies spend millions trying to sell us–instead opting for real food.
And if you really think that the organizations that fund (or “sponsor”) nutrition research and education don’t have influence over what what research comes out and how the messages are spun, I have a bridge to sell you!
If you haven’t done so already, keep that list in mind and set aside a bit of time to watch the movie Food Inc. (one of our recommended movies). You might think about eatright.org a little differently after you do.
Sadly, it’s as much about politics and money as the presidential and congressional elections are. So when confronted with nutritional advice or a new study, take a minute to figure out who funded it and ask yourself what their agenda is likely to be. I think you’ll walk away with a more balanced view.
I’ll get into this topic a bit more in an upcoming book review–hopefully next week.