Health Check: The Study About Studies

Not long ago the best nutritional advice seemed to come from mothers and grandmothers, and it didn't take a lot of scientists to corroborate it. Now, it seems like every week another study comes out, telling us how and what to eat. If you've ever felt suspicious about where these studies are coming from, a new - you guessed it - study may confirm your suspicions.

The study, conducted by Children's Hospital in Boston, looked at beverage studies that had been funded entirely by an industry with financial interest in the outcome of the study. The studies with vested sponsors were four to eight times more likely to have conclusions favorable to sponsors' financial interest than were studies with no industry funding.

This might seem obvious, but according to David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., the study's senior author and director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children's Hospital Boston, this bias in nutrition research may have a ripple effect. Nutritional studies influence much of the advice we consumers receive - whether from the government, professional dieticians or FDA-regulated health claims on foods and beverages. This ripple effect can end up influencing parents in the grocery store.

The study's authors have recommended various means of safeguarding the integrity of such studies. But in the meantime, the next time you hear a surprising new piece of health advice, make sure you find out who funded the study, and to be safe, keep your grandmother's advice in mind: always eat breakfast, have more veggies, eat fewer sweets. What more do we need to know?