Transcript: Can We Trust Nutrition Science? | Aug 26, 2019

Nam sits in the studio. She's in her early forties, with shoulder length curly brown hair. She's wearing glasses and a gray blazer over a pink shirt.

A caption on screen reads "Can we trust nutrition science? Nam Kiwanuka, @namshine, @theagenda."

Nam says FOOD COMPANIES MAKE CLAIMS
ALL THE TIME ABOUT THE HEALTH
BENEFITS OF THEIR PRODUCTS.
THEY OFTEN CITE
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH TO PROVE IT.
BUT IN THE FLURRY OF CLAIMS AND
COUNTERCLAIMS, HOW RELIABLE IS
ANY OF IT?
MARION NESTLE IS PAULETTE
GODDARD PROFESSOR OF NUTRITION,
FOOD STUDIES, AND PUBLIC HEALTH,
EMERITA, AT NEW YORK UNIVERSITY,
AND THE AUTHOR OF
SEVERAL AWARD-WINNING BOOKS.
HER LATEST IS: Unsavory Truth. HOW FOOD COMPANIES SKEW THE SCIENCE OF WHAT WE EAT.

A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover is white, with a picture of three slices of fruit: a lime, a lemon and a grapefruit.
Marion is in her sixties, with curly gray hair. She's wearing a blue sweater and a yellow scarf.

Nam continues AND SHE JOINS US NOW FOR MORE.
HI.

Marion says HI.

NAM SAYS IT'S NICE TO SEE YOU AGAIN.

Marion says I'M GLAD TO BE HERE
AGAIN [CHUCKLES].

Nam says YOU POINT OUT IN THE BOOK THAT
IN THE WAKE OF WORLD WAR II,
FOOD COMPANIES
INCLUDING GENERAL FOODS, KRAFT,
NESTLÉ... WHICH
YOU'RE NOT RELATED...

MARION SAYS NO.

[BOTH LAUGH]

Nam says THEY BUILT THEIR OWN
RESEARCH FACILITIES.
WHY DID THEY DO THAT?

The caption changes to "Marion Nestle. Author, 'Unsavory Truth.'"
Then, it changes again to "A changing research landscape."

Marion says WELL, THEY WERE INTERESTED IN
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE NEW
RESEARCH THAT WAS
COMING OUT ON VITAMINS.
THEY WERE JUST BEING DISCOVERED.
THAT WAS VERY EXCITING.
AND THEY WANTED TO MAKE
SURE THAT THEY WERE DEVELOPING
PRODUCTS THAT MET NUTRITIONAL
STANDARDS AND THAT CUSTOMERS
WOULD LIKE.
AND SO, THEY HAD ALL THESE
RESEARCH FACILITIES WITH PEOPLE
STUDYING FOOD AND
DEVELOPING NEW FOOD PRODUCTS.

Nam says HOW DIFFERENT IS NUTRITION
RESEARCH TODAY FROM THAT?

MARION SAYS WELL, THAT CHANGED
IN THE 1980S WHEN WE HAD THE
SHAREHOLDER VALUE MOVEMENT THAT
REQUIRED CORPORATIONS TO PUT
SHAREHOLDER VALUE FIRST...

NAM SAYS SO NOW THEY WERE
TRYING TO MAKE A PROFIT?

Marion says AND MAKE IMMEDIATE HIGHER
RETURNS ON INVESTMENT AND PAY
OFF STOCKHOLDERS, AND COMPANIES
STARTED CUTTING, WHATEVER COSTS
THEY COULD POSSIBLY CUT, IN
ORDER TO REDUCE THE COSTS
SO THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO RAISE
THE PRICES OF THEIR FOODS.

NAM SAYS WHAT DID THEY CUT, LIKE...

Marion says WELL, THEY CUT THEIR
RESEARCH FACILITIES.
SO, THERE REALLY ARE ONLY TWO
MAJOR FOOD COMPANIES THAT ARE
STILL DOING ANYTHING
LIKE BASIC RESEARCH.
NESTLÉ...
NO RELATION

[NAM LAUGHS]

The caption changes to "Marion Nestle. New York University."

Marion says AND UNILEVER ARE REALLY
THE TWO MAIN ONES
THAT ARE CONDUCTING RESEARCH.
DANONE IS DOING SOME TOO.

NAM SAYS IT'S TOO BAD YOU'RE
NOT RELATED, RIGHT?

[LAUGHS]

MARION SAYS IT IS TOO BAD.

NAM SAYS FREE CHOCOLATE.

Marion says THE BLACK SHEEP OF THE FAMILY.

Nam says WELL, NEAR THE BEGINNING OF
THE BOOK, YOU NOTE THAT...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Food for thought." The quote reads "Financial ties with food companies are not necessarily corrupting; it is quite possible to do industry-funded research and retain independence and integrity."
Quoted from Marion Nestle, "Unsavory truth." 2018.

Nam says WHY DID YOU INCLUDE THIS
SENTENCE, ONLY TO SPEND THE REST
OF THE BOOK DISCUSSING
SITUATIONS THAT DISPROVE
THIS NOTION?

The caption changes to "Determining bias."

Marion says WELL, BECAUSE IT'S TRUE.
IT'S TRUE.
YOU KNOW, IN MY OWN COLLECTION
OF INDUSTRY-FUNDED STUDIES,
ABOUT 90 percent TO 95 percent OF THE
COLLECTION HAVE RESULTS THAT
FAVOUR THE SPONSOR'S INTEREST,
BUT THERE'S
5 percent THAT DOESN'T... 5 percent TO 10 percent.
THAT'S NOT AN
ACCURATE PERCENTAGE.
IT'S JUST A CASUAL COLLECTION.
BUT IF YOU DO STUDIES, AND THERE
ARE PEOPLE WHO HAVE DONE THIS,
OF INDUSTRY-FUNDED RESEARCH, SAY
ON SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES AND
WHETHER THEY HAVE ANY EFFECT ON
OBESITY AND TYPE 2 DIABETES,
THE INDUSTRY-FUNDED STUDIES,
ALMOST ALL OF THEM,
WILL SAY, "NO."
"SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES HAVE
NOTHING TO DO WITH OBESITY AND
TYPE 2 DIABETES."
BUT THE INDEPENDENTLY-FUNDED
STUDIES, ALMOST ALL OF THEM,
WILL SAY, "WELL, YES,
THERE'S A BIG RELATIONSHIP."

Nam says BUT AS A CONSUMER, ARE YOU ABLE
TO DISTINGUISH THE DIFFERENCE?

Marion says NOT UNLESS YOU'RE PAYING CLOSE
ATTENTION TO WHO PAID
FOR THE STUDY.
I THINK THE ISSUE OF WHO
PAID FOR THE STUDY IS ONE
THAT EVERYBODY SHOULD BE ASKING.

Nam says WELL IN THE BOOK, YOU DO TELL
THIS REALLY INTERESTING STORY.
YOU ACTUALLY ENDED UP IN A
SERIES OF EMAILS THAT WERE
LEAKED WHEN THEY WERE
HACKED FROM THE HILLARY CLINTON
CAMPAIGN.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?

The caption changes to "The Cola connection."

Marion says WELL, THIS WAS ONE OF THE
MOST BAZAAR THINGS
I'VE EVER EXPERIENCED.
WHEN THE HACKING OF HILLARY
CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN EMAILS CAME
OUT, I GOT EMAILS FROM TWO
PEOPLE, WHO I DIDN'T KNOW,
SAYING, "MARION,
YOU'RE IN THE EMAILS!"
AND I THOUGHT, "WHAT?
I DIDN'T HAVE ANYTHING
TO DO
WITH HILLARY
CLINTON'S CAMPAIGN."
I COULDN'T IMAGINE
WHAT I WAS DOING THERE.
BUT IT TURNED OUT THEY HAD
PICKED UP A COLLECTION OF EMAILS
FROM AN ADVISER TO CLINTON WHO
HAPPENED TO BE CONSULTING FOR
COCA-COLA AT THE SAME TIME.
AND HER EMAILS INCLUDED A REPORT
ON A TALK THAT I HAD GIVEN IN
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA WHEN I WAS
VISITING A SCHOLAR THERE, TAKING
NOTES ON A TALK I HAD
GIVEN... VERY GOOD NOTES, ACTUALLY...

[NAM CHUCKLES]

Marion says AND PASSING THEM ALL THE WAY
UP THE CHAIN OF COMMAND WITH
INSTRUCTIONS THAT COCA-COLA
AUGHT TO MONITOR MY ACTIVITIES
IN AUSTRALIA, AND ALSO MONITOR
THE ACTIVITIES OF THE WOMAN IN
WHOSE GROUP I WAS WORKING.

Nam says I MEAN, I'M NOT YOU, BUT
I'M LIKE SCARED FOR YOU.
DID YOU... WERE YOU
SCARED OR LIKE...

Marion says NO, I WAS FLATTERED.

[NAM LAUGHS]

Marion says I THOUGHT, "REALLY?
COCA-COLA SENT SOMEONE TO SYDNEY
AUSTRALIA TO PAY ATTENTION
TO WHAT I WAS SAYING ABOUT
SUGAR-SWEETENED BEVERAGES?"
MY BOOK
SODA POLITICS.
HAD JUST COME OUT.
THIS WAS EARLY IN 2016.
AND I ASSUMED THAT THERE WAS
SOMEONE FROM THE SUGARY-DRINK
INDUSTRY AT EVERY TALK I GAVE.
SO, I WASN'T CONCERNED THAT
THERE WAS SOMEBODY AT THAT TALK.
I WAS JUST ASTOUNDED TO
FIND MYSELF IN HACKED EMAILS.

Nam says SO, DID... WITH THE EMAIL... I DON'T
WANT TO SPEND TOO MUCH TIME ON
THE EMAILS, BUT...

Marion says AND I SHOULD SAY THAT I HAVE MET
IN MY OFFICE WITH THE HEAD OF
COCA-COLA NORTH
AMERICA THREE TIMES.
SO, WE HAVE A VERY
CORDIAL RELATIONSHIP.
THEY'RE INTERESTED IN
WHAT I HAVE TO SAY.
AND I'M INTERESTED IN
WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY.

Nam says WELL, YOU HAVE A... YOU SPENT
ONE CHAPTER IN THE BOOK TALKING
SPECIFICALLY ABOUT COCA-COLA.
HOW INVOLVED IS
COCA-COLA IN NUTRITION RESEARCH?

Marion says WELL, IT USED TO BE MUCH
MORE INVOLVED THAN IT IS.
AND ONE OF THE REASONS WHY I
DEVOTED A WHOLE CHAPTER TO
COCA-COLA WAS THAT AFTER MY BOOK
SODA POLITICS
WENT TO PRESS,
WHEN IT WAS FAR TOO LATE FOR
ME TO WRITE ABOUT ANY OF THIS,
THERE WAS A BIG EXPOSÉ IN
THE NEW YORK TIMES
ABOUT COCA-COLA'S FUNDING
OF THE GLOBAL ENERGY
BALANCE NETWORK... A GROUP
OF RESEARCHERS WHO WERE
ARGUING THAT PHYSICAL
ACTIVITY IS MORE IMPORTANT
THAN DIET IN WHAT YOU WEIGH.

NAM SAYS AND THIS WAS...

Marion says CONTRARY TO MOST RESEARCH.

Nam says AND THIS IS... WAS THIS CALLED
THE INTERNATIONAL STUDY WITH
CHILDHOOD OBESITY,
LIFESTYLE, AND THE ENVIRONMENT?

Nam says OR WAS THAT...

Marion says NO, THAT WAS A SEPARATE ISSUE.

NAM SAYS OK.

Marion says THAT WAS A STUDY ON THE CAUSES
OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY, FUNDED BY
COCA-COLA, AT GREAT EXPENSE.
AND THAT STUDY, SURPRISE,
CAME OUT AND SAID THAT PHYSICAL
ACTIVITY, WATCHING TELEVISION,
AND NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
WERE THE MAJOR CAUSES
OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY.
NOT WHAT THEY ATE.
SURPRISE!

Nam says WHAT WAS THE REACTION TO... YEAH,
WELL, WHAT WAS THE REACTION BY
THE PUBLIC AND THE
MEDIA OVER THIS STUDY?

Marion says WELL, THE MEDIA
RAISED ITS EYEBROWS.
IT WAS A STUDY THAT WAS
FUNDED BY COCA-COLA, CLEARLY IN
COCA-COLA'S INTEREST.
VERY CONSISTENT WITH RESEARCH
THAT SHOWS THAT INDUSTRY-FUNDED
RESEARCH COMES OUT WITH RESULTS
THAT FAVOUR
THE SPONSOR'S INTEREST.

Nam says WELL, IN THE BOOK, YOU DO WRITE
THAT COCA-COLA HAS CHANGED SOME
OF ITS PRACTICES SINCE.
BUT AS A COMPANY, WERE THEY
AWARE OF THE BIAS THAT THEIR
FUNDING OF NUTRITION
RESEARCH CREATES, MORE THAN THE
RECIPIENTS OR THE PEOPLE
WHO RECEIVE THE MONEY?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Marion says WELL, IT'S HARD TO SAY.
THERE ARE LOTS AND LOTS OF
EMAILS THAT HAVE BEEN OBTAINED
BY REPORTERS, AND
APPARENTLY RUSSIAN
HACKERS... [CHUCKLES]... FROM
COCA-COLA.
AND THOSE... THOSE EMAILS
DEMONSTRATE A QUITE-CLOSE
RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COCA-COLA
EXECUTIVES AND RESEARCHERS WHO
WERE FUNDED BY COCA-COLA.
BUT IT'S DIFFICULT TO SAY
EXACTLY HOW MUCH INFLUENCE THE
COMPANY HAD.
BUT THEY DIDN'T HAVE TO
HAVE ANY DIRECT INFLUENCE.
BECAUSE THE RESEARCH ON... FROM
OTHER INDUSTRIES, LIKE THE
PHARMACEUTICAL DRUG INDUSTRY,
FOR EXAMPLE, IS VERY CLEAR THAT
INDUSTRY-FUNDING INFLUENCE
OCCURS AT AN UNCONSCIOUS LEVEL.
THE RECIPIENTS OF IT DON'T
THINK THEY'RE BEING INFLUENCED.
THEY DON'T
RECOGNIZE THE INFLUENCE.
THEY DIDN'T INTEND
TO BE INFLUENCED.
IT JUST HAPPENS.

NAM SAYS RIGHT.
AND IN THE BOOK... LET'S
TALK MORE ABOUT THAT.
IN UNSAVOURY TRUTH,
YOU WRITE...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "How food functions." The quote reads "Foods are not drugs. To ask whether one single food has special health benefits defies common sense. We do not eat just one food. We wat many different foods in combinations that differ from day to day; varying our food intake takes care of nutrient needs. But when marketing imperatives are at work, sellers want research to claim that their products are 'superfoods,' a nutritionally meaningless term."
Quoted from Marion Nestle, "Unsavory truth." 2018.

Nam says YOU WRITE ABOUT POMEGRANATES.
YOU USE THAT AS A
STUDY IN THE BOOK.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT
THE POMEGRANATE'S CASE?

The caption changes to "Just one thing."

Marion says YES, THE MAJOR SELLERS OF
POMEGRANATE... POMEGRANATE JUICE
IN THE UNITED STATES FUNDED
ABOUT 35 MILLION dollars WORTH OF
RESEARCH TO DEMONSTRATE THAT
POMEGRANATES WERE A SUPERFOOD.
AND THEIR DEFINITION OF
SUPERFOOD WAS THAT POMEGRANATES
HAVE ANTIOXIDANTS.
I COULD HAVE TOLD THEM THAT.
ALL FRUITS HAVE
ANTIOXIDANTS [CHUCKLES].
BUT THAT THE PARTICULAR ONES IN
POMEGRANATES WOULD SAVE YOU
FROM DYING.
IT WOULD PREVENT HEART ATTACKS,
WOULD PREVENT DIABETES,
WOULD PREVENT AN ENORMOUS
RANGE OF DISEASES.
AND THEY CLAIM
THAT IN ADVERTISING.
THE FDA TOOK A DIM VIEW OF THAT.

NAM SAYS THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION?

Marion says THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION
IN THE UNITED STATES WHICH
REGULATES THE KINDS OF CLAIMS
THAT FOOD COMPANIES CAN MAKE
ABOUT THEIR PRODUCTS AND MADE
THE POMEGRANATE PEOPLE BACK OFF
OF A LOT OF THAT.
AND SO THOSE ADS ARE NO LONGER
THERE; ALTHOUGH, I DO HAVE A
COPY OF... A REPRODUCTION OF
ONE OF THEM IN THE BOOK.
BUT THAT WAS AN EXAMPLE OF A
COMPANY THAT THOUGHT THAT IF
THEY COULD CONVINCE THE PUBLIC
THAT POMEGRANATES WERE
REALLY SPECIAL... SUPERFOODS, THAT THEY WOULD
SELL MORE POMEGRANATE JUICE.
NEVER MIND HOW
MUCH SUGAR IT HAS.

Nam says AND I THINK YOU MENTIONED THAT
AT ONE POINT, I GUESS IN THE
STATES, THAT JUICE WAS SELLING
FOR 8.99, COMPARED TO THE NEXT
JUICE WHICH WAS SELLING
FOR LIKE 3.99 OR SOMETHING?

Marion says OH, IT'S EXTRAORDINARILY
EXPENSIVE [LAUGHS].
THEY'RE MAKING A LOT
OF MONEY OFF OF IT.

NAM SAYS BUT PEOPLE ARE BUYING
THAT, SO WHAT DOES THAT SAY...

Marion says WELL, PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT
THIS... THAT POMEGRANATE JUICE HAS
SPECIAL PROPERTIES, MORE THAN
ANY OTHER KIND OF FRUIT JUICE.

Nam says AND SOMETHING WHICH YOU REPEAT A
COUPLE TIMES IN THE BOOK IS YOU
SAY THAT IT'S
MARKETING NOT SCIENCE.

Marion says THAT'S MARKETING; NOT SCIENCE.

Nam says HOW CAN WE TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

Marion says WELL, AS A CONSUMER, YOU'RE UP
AGAINST I WOULD SAY ANYTHING
THAT DEFIES COMMON SENSE.
YOU ALWAYS WANT TO USE COMMON
SENSE WHEN LOOKING
AT NUTRITION ISSUES.
NUTRITION RESEARCH IS EXTREMELY
DIFFICULT TO DO BECAUSE PEOPLE
EAT DIETS OF SUCH EXTRAORDINARY
COMPLEXITY, AND YOU CANNOT LOCK
PEOPLE UP IN CAGES FOR 40 YEARS,
AND FEED THEM DEFINED DIETS AND
THEN SEE WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM.
YOU CAN'T DO THAT.
SO, YOU HAVE TO MAKE INFERENCES
FROM OTHER KINDS OF RESEARCH.
AND THAT RESEARCH IS INVARIABLY
FLAWED BECAUSE YOU CAN'T LOCK
PEOPLE UP.
SO, YOU WANT TO THINK ABOUT
WHETHER THE RESULTS OF RESEARCH
MAKE COMMON SENSE OR NOT.
IF THEY DON'T, YOU
WANT TO BE SKEPTICAL.
AND MY FAVOURITE IS, "ANYTHING
YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW ABOUT
NUTRITION IS WRONG."
EVERY TIME I HEAR THAT, IT'S
LIKE THIS BIG RED FLAG FLIES IN
THE AIR!
AND YOU KNOW THAT WHAT THEY'RE
SAYING CAN'T BE RIGHT BECAUSE
THAT'S NOT HOW SCIENCE WORKS.

Nam says WELL, ANOTHER TERM THAT KIND
OF GETS ON YOUR NERVES A LITTLE
BIT... [LAUGHS]... IT'S IN THE
SECTION WHERE YOU'RE TALKING
ABOUT CHOCOLATE IS NUTRIFLUFF.
NUTRIFLUFF, WHAT IS THAT?

Marion says WELL, NUTRIFLUFF IS
A TERM I INVENTED...

[NAM LAUGHS]

Marion says TO DESCRIBE RESEARCH ON SINGLE
NUTRIENTS OR FOODS THAT DEFIES
COMMON SENSE... WITH
RESULTS THAT DEFY COMMON SENSE.
AND THE CHOCOLATE STUDIES
WERE, YOU KNOW, MARS AND OTHER
COMPANIES SPENT FORTUNES TO
TRY TO DEMONSTRATE THAT DARK
CHOCOLATE IS A HEALTH FOOD.
AND ALMOST EVERYBODY I KNOW
BELIEVES THAT DARK CHOCOLATE IS A...

NAM SAYS I BELIEVE IT!

Marion says IS A HEALTHY...

Nam says I WAS DISAPPOINTED TO READ THAT.
I WAS LIKE, "AHH!"

[LAUGHS]

MARION SAYS I KNOW, I'M SO SORRY.
BUT, IN FACT, YOU WOULD HAVE TO
EAT QUITE A LOT OF CHOCOLATE,
WITH ALL ITS CALORIES AND SUGAR,
IN ORDER TO GET THE BENEFITS OF
THE FLAVANOL ANTIOXIDANTS
THAT ARE IN UNPROCESSED COCOA.
AND THE PROCESSING OF COCOA
INTO MOST CHOCOLATE DESTROYS THE
FLAVANOLS ANYWAY.
SO, IT WAS HYPE.
IT WAS MARKETING HYPE.
AND EVEN MARS HAS BACKED OFF IT
AND NO LONGER IS MARKETING... OR
says IT'S NO LONGER MARKETING
CHOCOLATE AS A HEALTH FOOD.
INSTEAD, IT'S NOW GOT
COCOA-FLAVANOL SUPPLEMENTS THAT
IT'S TRYING TO PUSH ON EVERYONE.
I'D RATHER EAT CHOCOLATE.

Nam says WELL, DO YOU KIND OF THINK TOO
THAT WE BELIEVE
WHAT WE WANT TO BELIEVE?
BECAUSE IT JUST KIND OF... YOU
KNOW, WE CAN DO THESE THINGS.

Marion says WELL, I THINK THERE'S SOMETHING
ABOUT THE WAY THE HUMAN BRAIN IS
WIRED THAT IF IT'S
NUTRITIOUS, IT'S GOOD.
AND IF IS A NUTRIENT IS GOOD, WE
SHOULD HAVE... GET AS MUCH OF IT
AS WE POSSIBLY CAN.
AND WE JUST LOVE THE IDEA
THAT PRODUCTS HAVE SPECIAL
NUTRITIONAL PROPERTIES.
EVEN THOUGH IF YOU STOOD BACK
AND THOUGHT ABOUT IT FOR 20
SECONDS, YOU'D REALIZE THAT IT
JUST DIDN'T MAKE SENSE AT ALL.
AND, OF COURSE, FOOD COMPANIES
KNOW HOW TO USE THESE THINGS TO
MARKET TO US.
THEY ARE TOTALLY AWARE OF THE
PSYCHOLOGICAL RESEARCH THAT
DEMONSTRATES THESE CONNECTIONS.
MOST OF US HAVEN'T
STUDIED THOSE THINGS.

Nam says WELL, ANOTHER STUDY THAT YOU
WRITE ABOUT IN THE BOOK IS THE
FIFTH QUARTER
FRESH CHOCOLATE MILK.

MARION SAYS OH, YES.

Nam says CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE STORY?

The caption changes to "When industry goes to school."

Marion says YEAH, WELL, THAT'S PROBABLY THE
MOST EGREGIOUS EXAMPLE THAT I
USE IN THE BOOK.
THIS WAS AN OSTENSIBLE STUDY... IT
TURNED OUT IT WASN'T
EVEN A STUDY... TO DEMONSTRATE THAT HIGH
SCHOOL FOOTBALL PLAYERS WHO
DRANK THIS CHOCOLATE MILK
PRODUCT HAD FEWER SYMPTOMS OF
CONCUSSIONS THAN HIGH SCHOOL
FOOTBALL PLAYERS WHO DIDN'T
DRINK THIS PRODUCT.
AND THE IDEA THAT ALL YOU HAD TO
DO WAS TO DRINK A CHOCOLATE MILK
IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE
REALLY... THE DAMAGE CAUSED BY
CONCUSSIONS FROM PLAYING
FOOTBALL IS ASTONISHING
TO BEGIN WITH.
AND AS IT HAPPENED, THIS STUDY
CAME OUT AT A TIME WHEN THERE
WAS A LOT OF CONCERN ABOUT HIGH
SCHOOL FOOTBALL... THE SAFETY
OF HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS.

NAM SAYS IT CAME OUT AROUND THE SAME
TIME AS THAT MOVIE
CONCUSSION
CAME OUT.

MARION SAYS AND A MOVIE
CONCUSSION
WHICH DEMONSTRATED THE...

Nam says THE MARKETING...

Marion says THE MARKETING AND THE HIDING
OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF FOOTBALL
TO CONCUSSIONS.
YOU KNOW, IT WAS... THIS IS
A REALLY SERIOUS ISSUE.
AND IT TURNED OUT THE
INVESTIGATOR DIDN'T REALLY HAVE
A STUDY, THAT FIFTH QUARTER
FRESH... THE COMPANY THAT MADE
THIS PRODUCT... HAD PAID
FOR ALL THIS STUFF AND...

NAM SAYS AND THIS WAS DONE
THROUGH A UNIVERSITY, RIGHT?

MARION SAYS THIS WAS DONE THROUGH
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND.
IT WAS A HUGE SCANDAL.
AND THE PRESS GOT A HOLD OF IT
WHEN THE STUDY FIRST CAME OUT.
THE PRESS LOOKED INTO
IT, ASKED FOR THE DATA.
THERE WERE NO DATA.
THEY WERE REALLY UPSET ABOUT IT.
AND I THOUGHT THIS WAS A PERFECT
EXAMPLE OF THE EXTREME OF FOOD
INDUSTRY-FUNDED quote-unquote "STUDY,"
COMING OUT WITH RESULTS
THAT THE FUNDER WANTED.

Nam says SO, THE UNIVERSITY ENDED
UP GIVING BACK THE MONEY.

MARION SAYS OH, YES.
BUT, YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU... 'CAUSE
IN THE BOOK, YOU TALK ABOUT HOW
MUCH, EVEN FOR PROFESSORS, FOR
TEACHERS, SOME OF THEIR SALARY
COMES FROM... YOU HAVE TO
LIKE RAISE FUNDS FOR IT.
BUT EVEN WHEN YOU'RE
DOING THE RESEARCH.
CAN UNIVERSITIES DO THIS KIND OF
RESEARCH WITHOUT RELYING ON BIG
INDUSTRY TO GIVE THEM THE MONEY?

Marion says WELL, THEY CAN.
MOST... MOST MONEY FOR RESEARCH
STILL COMES FROM THE GOVERNMENT,
OR FROM PRIVATE FOUNDATIONS.
AND IF UNIVERSITIES ARE GOING
TO ALLOW THEIR FACULTY TO TAKE
INDUSTRY FUNDING, I THINK THEY
HAVE TO SET UP SOME FIREWALLS,
SO THE INVESTIGATORS ARE
PROTECTED IN SOME WAY FROM BEING
BEHOLDEN TO THE FUNDER.
THIS IS VERY, VERY
DIFFICULT TO DO.
AND THE MORE I THOUGHT ABOUT IT,
THE MORE I THOUGHT THAT THE ONLY
THING THAT WOULD WORK WOULD BE
TO TAX COMPANIES, AND HAVE THEM
PUT ALL THAT MONEY INTO A
COMMON FUND AND DISTRIBUTE...

NAM SAYS NO ONE LIKES TAXES.
HOW COULD YOU DO THAT?

MARION SAYS OH, IT'LL NEVER... IT'S
POLITICALLY IMPOSSIBLE.
BUT I THINK THAT MAY
BE THE ONLY THING THAT WORKS.
BUT I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT THAT
UNIVERSITIES SET UP CRITERIA... AT
LEAST SET UP CRITERIA FOR
ACCEPTING INDUSTRY FUNDING THAT
INCLUDE THINGS LIKE THE FUNDER
CAN HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE
DESIGNED CONDUCT OR
INTERPRETATION
OF THEIR RESEARCH.
THE FUNDER CANNOT INTERFERE WITH
THE PUBLICATION OF THE RESEARCH
IN ANY WAY.
AND REALLY, THE FUNDER SHOULDN'T
EVEN LOOK AT THE PUBLICATION
UNTIL IT APPEARS IN THE PRESS.
I THINK YOU COULD SET UP A
SERIES OF FIREWALLS LIKE THAT
THAT WOULD BE MUCH MORE
PROTECTIVE OF THE INVESTIGATORS.

NAM SAYS WELL, IN THE
BOOK YOU WRITE THAT...

Another quote appears on screen, under the title "Step by step." The quote reads "Dealing with the conflicts caused by food-industry funding is best viewed as a three-step process: recognize, disclose and manage.

Nam says WHAT WOULD YOU SAY OF THOSE
STEPS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT?

The caption changes to "Marion Nestle, @marionnestle."

Marion says WELL, I THINK WE HAVE
TO START WITH RECOGNIZE.
BECAUSE I KNOW FROM TALKING TO
MY COLLEAGUES THAT MANY OF MY
COLLEAGUES WHO TAKE MONEY FROM
FOOD COMPANIES THINK IT HAS NO
EFFECT ON THEIR RESEARCH.
THEY THINK IT HAS NO EFFECT ON
THE RESEARCH QUESTION, HOW THEY
DESIGN THAT, HOW THEY CONDUCT
THE STUDY, HOW THEY INTERPRET
THE STUDY, OR WHETHER THEY
CAN PUBLISH THE STUDY, AND SEEM
QUITE UNAWARE OF THE WAY THAT
INFLUENCE OCCURS UNCONSCIOUSLY,
AND TAKE NO STEPS TO TRY
TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM
UNCONSCIOUS INFLUENCE.
SO, I THINK RECOGNIZING THAT
THIS IS A PROBLEM IS A NECESSARY
FIRST STEP.
ONCE YOU RECOGNIZE THAT IT'S A
PROBLEM, YOU CAN AT LEAST PAY
ATTENTION TO ALL THE VARIOUS
PARTS OF THE RESEARCH PROCESS.
AND TRY TO MAKE SURE THAT YOUR
FUNDER STAYS OUT OF THOSE STEPS.

Nam says BUT I THINK EVEN AS A... AS
SOMEBODY WHO IS DOING THIS WORK,
AS A RESEARCHER, I THINK PEOPLE
MIGHT THINK THAT THEY'RE
BEYOND REPROACH.
SO HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE TO
RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS AN ISSUE
IF THEY DON'T KNOW
THAT THERE'S AN ISSUE?

Marion says WELL, THAT'S WHY
I WROTE THE BOOK!

[NAM LAUGHS]

Marion says I MEAN, THAT'S WHAT I
HOPE THE BOOK WOULD DO.
I HOPE THAT THE BOOK WOULD
ENCOURAGE PEOPLE IN THE GENERAL
PUBLIC TO BE A LITTLE BIT
SKEPTICAL ABOUT INDUSTRY-FUNDED
RESEARCH, AND I HOPE THAT IT
WOULD ENCOURAGE MY COLLEAGUES TO
RECOGNIZE THAT THIS IS SOMETHING
THAT THEY NEED TO DEAL WITH.

Nam says BUT YOU ALSO WRITE THAT
DISCLOSING FINANCIAL CONFLICTS
OF INTEREST CAN
ACTUALLY BACKFIRE.

MARION SAYS YES.

Nam says IN WHAT WAYS?

Marion says WELL, DISCLOSURE... AND NEARLY
ALL PROFESSIONAL JOURNALS NOW
REQUIRE INVESTIGATORS TO SAY WHO
PAID FOR THEIR RESEARCH, AND DO
THEY HAVE ANY TIES TO THE FUNDER
AS A CONSULTANT, AS... THROUGH ANY
OTHER WAY THAT THEY COULD
POSSIBLY HAVE A FINANCIAL
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FUNDER?
THEY'RE REQUIRED TO SAY
THAT IN THEIR PAPERS.
AND THERE HAVE BEEN STUDIES THAT
HAVE EXAMINED
HOW THAT WORKS IN PRACTICE.
PARTICULARLY WITH PHARMACEUTICAL
COMPANIES GIVING MONEY
TO PHYSICIANS.
SOMETHING THAT WE KNOW A GREAT
DEAL ABOUT BECAUSE THE
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT
REQUIRES DRUG COMPANIES TO
DISCLOSE HOW MUCH MONEY
THEY GIVE TO PHYSICIANS
AND WHO SPECIFICALLY
THEY GIVE IT TO,
SO YOU CAN DO STUDIES OF IT.
AND THESE STUDIES SHOW THAT IF
YOU ASK PATIENTS WHETHER THEIR
PHYSICIAN HAS DISCLOSED
DRUG-INDUSTRY FUNDING OR NOT,
THE PATIENTS TRUST THE PHYSICIAN
MORE, IF THE PHYSICIAN HAS
DISCLOSED IT.
THAT'S PERVERSE
[CHUCKLES].

NAM SAYS WELL YOU MENTIONED TAX,
AND WE KIND OF JOKED ABOUT IT.
BUT IN THE BOOK YOU WRITE, ON
THE ISSUE OF GOVERNMENT FUNDING
FOR RESEARCH...

Another quote appears on screen, under the title "The research funding we deserve." The quote reads "Government agencies ought to be funding basic research in general and nutrition, food, and agriculture research in particular. WE need to know how best to feed the world's growing population, sustainably and in ways that promote the health of people and the planet. Food companies' priorities preclude their investment in such questions except when research might lead to product development and increased sales.
As citizens, we have the right to demand that government agencies dealing with food and nutrition matters put public health first."

Nam says HOW OPTIMISTIC ARE YOU THAT THIS
CAN BE ACHIEVED IN A TIME WHEN
THE WORD "TAX" SENDS LIKE
PEOPLE LIKE, "NO, NO, NO, NO"?

The caption changes to "A different model."

Marion says WELL, I THINK AWARENESS OF THIS
AS AN ISSUE IS VERY IMPORTANT.
AND WE KNOW THAT COCA-COLA'S
AWARENESS OF THE EMBARRASSMENT
THAT IT SUFFERED AS A RESULT OF
VARIOUS DISCLOSURES IN
THE NEW YORK TIMES
ABOUT
COCA-COLA'S FUNDING... HAS CHANGED THE WAY THAT IT
FUNDS RESEARCH, IS LOOKING MUCH
MORE CAREFULLY AT THE KIND
OF RESEARCH THAT IT FUNDS,
IS DEALING WITH IT IN A
MUCH MORE TRANSPARENT WAY.
THAT'S A BIG CHANGE,
AND ONE THAT I APPLAUD.
WHETHER THEIR CURRENT METHOD IS
GOING TO MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE,
WE DON'T KNOW YET, BUT IT'S
SOMETHING WE CAN FIND OUT.
I THINK OTHER COMPANIES
SHOULD TAKE A LOOK AT THAT TOO.

Nam says WELL, I MEAN, IN THE
BOOK, YOU WRITE ABOUT MARS
AND OBVIOUSLY COCA-COLA.
COMPANIES, WHEN THIS NEWS
BREAKS, IS IT MORE ABOUT THEIR
REPUTATION OR IS IT ABOUT THEM
ACTUALLY REALIZING THAT THIS IS
SOMETHING THAT THEY SHOULDN'T
HAVE DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE,
OR CHANGING BEHAVIOURS?

Marion says WELL, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO
UNDERSTAND THAT FOOD COMPANIES
ARE NOT SOCIAL SERVICE OR
PUBLIC HEALTH AGENCIES.
THAT'S NOT THEIR... I MEAN, THEY
MAKE PRODUCTS THAT WE LOVE,
BUT THAT'S NOT THEIR JOB.
THEIR JOB IS TO MAKE AS MUCH
PROFIT AS THEY POSSIBLY CAN IN
ORDER TO GIVE THEIR STOCKHOLDERS
THE HIGHEST POSSIBLE RETURNS ON
THEIR INVESTMENT.
THAT'S THEIR
NUMBER-ONE PRIORITY.
SO, TO EXPECT FOOD COMPANIES
TO BEHAVE AS SOCIAL SERVICE OR
PUBLIC HEALTH
AGENCIES IS UNREALISTIC.

Nam says I FEEL LIKE I'M BEATING UP ON
COCA-COLA, BUT YOU DID SPEND A
CHAPTER IN THE BOOK
TALKING ABOUT IT.
THEY'VE CHANGED THE WAY THEY
DO THINGS IN NORTH AMERICA,
BUT WHAT ARE THEY
DOING IN CHINA?

Marion says WELL, A FEW MONTHS AGO,
THERE WAS AN EXPOSÉ... THERE WERE
ARTICLES WRITTEN IN THE
BRITISH
MEDICAL JOURNAL
AND IN THE
JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY
THAT DOCUMENTED COCA-COLA'S
WORKING THROUGH AN ORGANIZATION
CALLED THE INTERNATIONAL LIFE
SCIENCES INSTITUTE WHICH
PRETENDS TO BE AN INDEPENDENT
THINK TANK ON FOOD SCIENCE
ISSUES, BUT IT'S ACTUALLY FUNDED
BY THE FOOD INDUSTRY.
AND IT SHOWED HOW
COCA-COLA, WORKING THROUGH THIS
ORGANIZATION, GOT THE CHINESE
GOVERNMENT TO EMPHASIZE PHYSICAL
ACTIVITY AS A MEANS TO DEAL WITH
ITS OBESITY PROBLEM, RATHER THAN
TELLING THE PUBLIC THEY
SHOULD DRINK FEWER SODAS.

NAM SAYS SO HAVE THEY
NOT LEARNED ANYTHING?

Marion says THE COMPANIES ARE... IF THEY
CAN... THEY MAY HAVE TO BEHAVE
BETTER IN THE UNITED STATES,
BUT IF THEY CAN'T SELL IT IN THE
UNITED STATES, THEY'RE GOING
TO TRY TO SELL IT OVERSEAS.
I WOULD REPEAT:
THEY'RE NOT SOCIAL
SERVICE AGENCIES.

Nam says ARE SUGAR TAXES MAYBE A
POSSIBILITY,
OR ARE THEY A GOOD THING?

Marion says WELL, THERE ARE COUNTRIES THAT
ARE LOOKING AT SUGAR TAXES,
AND THAT WILL HAVE A BIG EFFECT
ON
SOFT DRINK MANUFACTURERS.

Nam says ON YOUR... YOU HAVE A SITE CALLED
FOODPOLITICS.COM.

Marion says FOODPOLITICS.COM.

Nam says AND YOU WRITE ABOUT THE
INDUSTRY-FUNDED
STUDY OF THE WEEK.
WHY DO YOU DO THAT?

Marion says WELL, THE BOOK CAME OUT A COUPLE
OF MONTHS AGO, BUT AS A RESULT
OF THAT, PEOPLE ARE SENDING
ME THESE ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS
EXAMPLES OF INDUSTRY-FUNDED
STUDIES WITH HILARIOUS RESULTS.
I THINK THEY'RE FUNNY.

NAM SAYS AND AN EXAMPLE?

Marion says THEY'RE TOTALLY PREDICTABLE.
WELL, FOR SOME REASON OR
ANOTHER, I LOVE THE MANGO STUDY.
AND THIS WAS A STUDY WHERE... IT
SAID THAT MANGOES ARE BETTER
THAN FIBRE SUPPLEMENTS FOR
PREVENTING CONSTIPATION.
I LOOKED AT THE TITLE OF THE
STUDY, AND I THOUGHT,
"WHO FUNDED THAT?"
BINGO!
THE NATIONAL MANGO BOARD.

NAM SAYS WELL, THIS IS THE THING
THAT I FOUND... THAT WAS REALLY
SURPRISING IN THE BOOK,
THAT AVOCADO COMPANIES
DO STUDIES, MANGO...
IT'S NOT JUST LIKE COCA-COLA
OR MARS, LIKE PROCESSED FOODS.
BUT NATURAL FOOD,
THEY ALSO DO STUDIES.
WHICH IS WILD TO ME.

Marion says WELL, THEY WANT YOU TO
BUY MORE OF THEIR PRODUCTS.
EVERYBODY IS COMPETING
WITH EVERYBODY ELSE.
AS I LIKE TO EXPLAIN:
THERE ARE 4,000 CALORIES
AVAILABLE PER DAY IN THE UNITED
STATES FOR EVERY MAN,
WOMAN, AND LITTLE TINY BABY.
AND WE NEED... WE NEED
ON AVERAGE ABOUT 2,000.
THAT MAKES THE FOOD
INDUSTRY HUGELY COMPETITIVE.
SO, EVERY PRODUCER OF A FOOD
IS COMPETING WITH EVERY OTHER
PRODUCER OF A FOOD
FOR YOUR FOOD DOLLAR.
AND THEY THINK THAT IF THEY CAN
CONVINCE YOU THAT MANGOES HAVE
SPECIAL PROPERTIES, SOMEBODY WHO
WOULDN'T THINK OF BUYING MANGOES
BECAUSE THEY'RE DELICIOUS, AND
DOESN'T WANT TO PEEL THEM,
WOULD SAY, "OK, I'M GOING TO EAT
MANGOES BECAUSE IT'LL SOLVE
MY CONSTIPATION PROBLEM," AND,
"YES, I'M GOING TO EAT AVOCADOS
BECAUSE IT'LL SOLVE MY HEART
DISEASE PROBLEM
OR SOMETHING ELSE."
ANY TIME YOU SEE ONE FOOD BEING
RESPONSIBLE FOR PREVENTING A
PARTICULAR DISEASE...

NAM SAYS THAT'S A RED FLAG?

Marion says THAT'S A RED FLAG... BECAUSE WE DON'T
EAT SINGLE FOODS.
WE EAT VERY COMPLICATED DIETS.
I'M ALL FOR EATING MANGOES.
I'M ALL FOR EATING AVOCADOS.
I'M ALL FOR EATING NUTS.
I LOVE ALL OF THOSE FOODS.
I USUALLY EAT A
LITTLE BIT OF ALL OF THEM.

NAM SAYS AND SOME
CHOCOLATE
[LAUGHS].

MARION SAYS AND ABSOLUTELY
CHOCOLATE
[CHUCKLES].

NAM SAYS WHAT IS YOUR HOPE FOR THE
FUTURE OF NUTRITION RESEARCH?

Marion says WELL, I HOPE THAT PEOPLE WILL
RECOGNIZE THAT THEY HAVE TO BE
VERY CAREFUL ABOUT CONFLICTS OF
INTEREST, AND THAT ALSO WE WILL
FIGURE OUT WAYS TO DO NUTRITION
RESEARCH IN WAYS THAT MEET MORE
RIGOROUS SCIENTIFIC STANDARDS,
AS WELL AS MORE RIGOROUS
ETHICAL STANDARDS.
I THINK THE ETHICAL STANDARDS
ARE EASIER TO DEAL WITH THAN THE
SCIENTIFIC ONES BECAUSE IT'S SO
HARD TO DO NUTRITION RESEARCH
IN ANY KIND OF COMPELLING WAY.
SO, I WANT TO SEE LOTS MORE
EFFORT INTO DEALING WITH
THE ETHICAL ISSUES.

NAM SAYS WELL, THANK YOU...

Marion says AND THE SCIENCE WILL FOLLOW.

The caption changes to "Producer: Gregg Thurlbeck, @GreggThurlbeck."

Nam says MARION, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR
BEING HERE. AND THANK YOU FOR
WRITING THE BOOK. I THINK IT'S
GOING TO ALLOW CONSUMERS TO
TO MAKE MORE EMPOWERED
AND BETTER CHOICES.

Marion says I CERTAINLY HOPE SO.

NAM SAYS THANKS.

Watch: Can We Trust Nutrition Science?