Category Archives Scientific/Technical Items

Preventive Medicine has issued a retraction of a 2012 study conducted by Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, that purported to find that children were more likely to eat vegetables if the foods were given "attractive" names. The journal made corrections to the article in early February 2018 but retracted it after one of the study’s funders identified an additional error in how its grant was cited. The study is reportedly the sixth of Wansink’s publications to be formally retracted. Cornell began a formal investigation into Wansink’s research practices in late 2017.

Researchers in France and Brazil have concluded that a 10 percent increase in the consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with a "significant increase of greater than 10% in risks of overall and breast cancer." Thibault Fiolet, et al., "Consumption of ultra-processed food and cancer risks: results from NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort," BMJ, February 14, 2018. The study, which involved surveying records of more than 100,000 participants, asserts that ultra-processed fats and sauces along with sugary products and drinks were associated with an increased risk of overall cancer, while ultra-processed sugary products were also associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. The researchers hypothesized that the findings were caused by the "generally poorer nutritional quality of diets rich in ultra-processed foods," the wide range of additives used, and heat-related processing and preparation that produce neoformed contaminants such as acrylamide.

A study from the Department of Epidemiology at Boston University’s School of Public Health has concluded that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) may reduce fertility in both males and females. Elizabeth E. Hatch, et al., “Intake of Sugar-sweetened Beverages and Fecundability in a North American Preconception Cohort,” Epidemiology. Researchers studied 3,828 women and 1,045 of their male partners for up to 12 menstrual cycles in the four-year study. Women who drank at least one SSB per day reportedly had a 25 percent lower monthly probability of conception, while men who drank at least one SSB per day reportedly showed a 33 percent lower probability of successful conception. The study did not purport to find an association between lowered fertility and the consumption of diet sodas or fruit juices.

In a JAMA Viewpoint article, researchers from Stanford University have argued that nutrition studies should be transparent about their authors' financial and non-financial conflicts of interest, including their dietary preferences and activism work. Noting that "the puritanical view that accepting funding from the food industry ipso facto automatically biases the results is outdated," the authors briefly call for a financial disclosure registry before shifting to focus on non-financial conflicts of interest. "Advocacy and activism have become larger aspects of the work done by many nutrition researchers, and also should be viewed as conflicts of interest that need to be disclosed," they assert. "Therefore, it is important for nutrition researchers to disclose their advocacy or activist work as well as their dietary preferences if any are relevant to what is presented and discussed in their articles," the researchers argue. "This is even more important for dietary preferences that are specific, circumscribed, and…

Iowa State University researchers have reportedly developed an inexpensive method to test whether milk was produced by grass-fed cows. Fluorescence spectroscopy, which measures light to identify the amount of chlorophyll metabolized by cows, may help regulators enforce organic milk standards requiring cows to eat a minimum of 30 percent foraged grass. The researchers reportedly found that cows fed grass only had about three times as many chlorophyll metabolites as grain- and silage-fed cows, while the organic milk samples they tested had about twice as many chlorophyll metabolites as the grain- and silage-fed cows.

After JAMA Cardiology published a meta-analysis purporting to find “no significant association” between consumption of omega-3 fatty acids and “fatal or nonfatal coronary heart disease or any major vascular events,” industry groups reportedly criticized the conclusion, arguing that other meta-analyses find statistically significant reductions in cardiac death risks. The JAMA meta-analysis examined 10 randomized trials that involved at least 500 participants and a treatment duration of at least one year. “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration would seem to disagree with the conclusion of this study, as it has already approved at least one prescription medication for fish oil that provides benefits for people with cardiovascular issues,”​ the president of the Natural Products Association was quoted as saying.

As the number of obese and overweight Americans has climbed, many people have searched for causes and prevention strategies, with some noting that fat may be "the next tobacco" as researchers continue to find links between obesity and a variety of health issues. Questions have arisen about whether some ingredients, such as cheese, cause behaviors that amount to addiction,  and one study compared the neurological effects of high-fat foods to those of cocaine or heroin. Many have pointed to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) as a significant cause of rising obesity rates in children. Researchers and health experts have sought an entity to blame—including food companies, marketing, grocery checkout lanes, genetics, neurobiology, environmental exposure, immunology and hormones. As consumers filed lawsuits alleging companies are to blame for the ill health effects associated with eating their products, state governments introduced and, in some cases, passed legislation to protect companies from lawsuits alleging weight gain as…

Cornell University has reportedly begun a formal investigation into the research work of Brian Wansink, director of the university’s Food and Brand Lab. Four of Wansink's papers have been retracted in 2017, including a Frontiers of Psychology article retracted on November 27 and a JAMA Pediatrics article retracted in October. Reportedly, an additional eight papers have been or will be corrected, and Wansink has faced scientific misconduct allegations related to at least 50 studies. Cornell previously reviewed allegations of “inappropriate data handling and statistical analysis” in four of Wansink’s published papers but found no scientific misconduct.

University of Sydney researchers have apparently found an association between adolescents’ consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and oral health or obesity. Louise Hardy, et al., “Association between adolescents’ consumption of total and different types of sugar-sweetened beverages with oral health impacts and weight status,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, November 22, 2017. The authors noted a higher association between dental disease and “new generation” SSBs—diet soft drinks, sports drinks and flavored water—than the association found with other SSBs. The study reported that while daily consumption of SSBs is prevalent among adolescents—90 percent reported drinking at least one cup per day—SSB intake was “more consistently associated” with oral health problems than extra weight or obesity. More than 3,500 youths aged 10-16 participated in the study, which surveyed SSB intake, height and weight measurements, physical activity, dental health and demographic information. Although the study reported that clinical dental examinations…

Researchers at the University of Surrey have evaluated the impact of "snack" labeling compared to "meal" labeling, reportedly finding that those who ate products labeled as snacks consumed “significantly more in terms of nearly all measures of food intake than those in the other conditions.” J. Ogden et al., “'Snack' versus ‘meal’: The impact of label and place on food intake,” Appetite, October 23, 2017. Eighty female subjects ate food labeled or presented as either (i) a snack to be consumed standing or eaten from a container or (ii) a meal to be eaten from a plate at a table. The research reportedly showed that subjects consumed “significantly more” chocolate and more total mass and calories when the food was labeled as a snack. The authors concluded that “label and presentation influence subsequent food intake both independently and combined which is pertinent given the increase in ‘snacking’ in contemporary culture.”