Study sponsorship and the nutrition research agenda: analysis of cohort studies examining the association between nutrition and obesity

Public Health Nutr. 2017 Dec;20(17):3193-3199. doi: 10.1017/S1368980017002178. Epub 2017 Aug 30.


Objective: To categorize the research topics covered by a sample of cohort studies exploring the association between nutrition and obesity; to describe their funding sources; and to explore the association between funding sources and research topics.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Subjects: Cohort studies retrieved from MEDLINE and PubMed published between 2010 and 2016.

Results: One hundred and twenty-one studies were included. Funding source and conflicts of interest were disclosed in 95·0 and 90·1 % of the studies, respectively. Food industry sponsorship was disclosed in 8·3 % of the studies. Half of the studies analysed the consumption of a single food or food groups, 18·2 % included an analysis of dietary patterns and 17·4 % focused on specific nutrients. Highly processed foods were considered in 48·8 % of the studies and 27·3 % considered dietary behaviours (e.g. eating away from home). No statistically significant differences in research topics were observed between industry- and non-industry-funded studies.

Conclusions: Cohort studies focused on more complex exposures (e.g. food or dietary patterns) rather than single nutrients. No significant differences in the research agenda by funding sources were observed. The analysis was limited by the low proportion of studies with disclosed food industry sponsorship.

Keywords: Bias; Obesity; Research agenda; Sponsorship.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Research / economics*
  • Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Research Design