We’ve discovered that major oil companies have fed us disinformation about global warming. One troubling government policy change is that drug companies are now testing their own drugs. While this saves taxpayer money, it does not promote objectivity. It also turns out they’re doing the same thing with food!

A news release issued by Public Library of Science reveals that “ghost authorship” is common in industry drug trials. This is defined as “the failure to name, as an author, an individual who has made a substantial contribution to a scientific article.” The researchers who discovered this, by studying drug trials in Denmark, say, “Ghost authorship in industry-initiated randomized trials is very common, and we believe that this practice serves commercial purposes.” Doubtless the same big business bias goes on in US drug trials as well.

Now it’s been discovered that the same thing is going on when it comes to nutrition studies of popular drinks, which are being conducted by the same companies that make these products. David Ludwig found that beverage studies funded solely by industry were four to eight times more likely to have favorable conclusions about nutrition than studies with no industry funding. Because the researchers in this study focused their study on soft drinks, juice and milk, they aren’t sure whether their findings extend to nutrition studies as a whole.

Although false data could be present in some studies, more likely the biases reflect subtle manipulations, such as framing the questions in a way that make the results more favorable to a sponsor. In other cases, papers with unfavorable results may simply go unpublished.

“We don’t all take drugs, but we eat every day,” researcher Ludwig says. “If the science base is compromised by conflict of interest, that’s a top-order threat to public health.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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