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. 2007 Jan;4(1):e5.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0040005.

Relationship Between Funding Source and Conclusion Among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles

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Free PMC article

Relationship Between Funding Source and Conclusion Among Nutrition-Related Scientific Articles

Lenard I Lesser et al. PLoS Med. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Background: Industrial support of biomedical research may bias scientific conclusions, as demonstrated by recent analyses of pharmaceutical studies. However, this issue has not been systematically examined in the area of nutrition research. The purpose of this study is to characterize financial sponsorship of scientific articles addressing the health effects of three commonly consumed beverages, and to determine how sponsorship affects published conclusions.

Methods and findings: Medline searches of worldwide literature were used to identify three article types (interventional studies, observational studies, and scientific reviews) about soft drinks, juice, and milk published between 1 January, 1999 and 31 December, 2003. Financial sponsorship and article conclusions were classified by independent groups of coinvestigators. The relationship between sponsorship and conclusions was explored by exact tests and regression analyses, controlling for covariates. 206 articles were included in the study, of which 111 declared financial sponsorship. Of these, 22% had all industry funding, 47% had no industry funding, and 32% had mixed funding. Funding source was significantly related to conclusions when considering all article types (p = 0.037). For interventional studies, the proportion with unfavorable conclusions was 0% for all industry funding versus 37% for no industry funding (p = 0.009). The odds ratio of a favorable versus unfavorable conclusion was 7.61 (95% confidence interval 1.27 to 45.73), comparing articles with all industry funding to no industry funding.

Conclusions: Industry funding of nutrition-related scientific articles may bias conclusions in favor of sponsors' products, with potentially significant implications for public health.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: DSL is author of a book on childhood obesity (Ending the Food Fight).

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Flow Diagram for Inclusion of Articles in the Study
Figure 2
Figure 2. Percentage of Articles with Disclosed Funding by Publication Year (n = 206)
Bars extend to the confidence limits of the exact binomial 95% CI. (Overall, funding declared for 62% of interventional studies, 67% of observational studies, and 19% of scientific reviews.)

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