Monday, July 10, 2017

Domonoske's "50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat"

This NPR story discusses research detective work published JAMA. The JAMA article looked at a very influential NEJM review article that investigated the link between diet and Coronary Heart Disease. Specifically, whether sugar or fat contribute more to CHD. The article, written by Harvard researchers decades ago, pinned CHD on fatty diets. But the researchers took money from Big Sugar (which sounds like...a drag queen or CB handle) and communicated with Big Sugar while writing the review article.

This piece discusses how conflict of interest shaped food research and our beliefs about the causes of CHD for decades. And how conflict of interest and institutional/journal prestige shaped this narrative. It also touches on how industry, namely sugar interests, discounted research that finds a sugar:CHD link while promoting and funding research that finds a fat:CHD link.

How to use in a Research Methods class:
-Conflict of interest. The funding received by the researchers from the sugar lobby was never fully disclosed. Sugar lobby communicated with the authors of the original research while they were writing the review article.
-Article of ill repute was a literature review. Opens up the conversation on how influential review papers are. Especially when the authors are from well-reputed institutions and they are printed in well-reputed journals.
-A good example of cherry picking data. Articles critical of sugar where held to a different standard.
-I am a psychologist. I discuss the replication crisis in psychology, but other fields (here, nutrition and heart diseaseresearch) are susceptible to zeitgeist as well.

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