Big Soda-Funded Studies Don’t Often Link Drinks to Obesity

Source: Time

By Alexandra Sifferlin

When studies are funded by the beverage industry, they are less likely to find a link between sugary drinks and obesity and type 2 diabetes, according to a new report.

A team of researchers from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) looked at 60 studies published between 2001 and 2016 that analyzed the link between sugary drinks like soda and obesity and type 2 diabetes. Their research was spurred by legal proceedings between the soda industry and the city of San Francisco, the New York Times reports. Last year, the city started requiring advertisements for sugary beverages to carry warning labels linking the drinks to diseases like obesity. The beverage industry sued the city and said the labels were misleading and harmed free speech laws. The city hired the author of the new study—Dr. Dean Schillinger of UCSF, who focuses on diabetes—to research the link between sugary drinks and health issues.

During his research, Schillinger found that when studies are funded by the soda industry, they report different findings than studies that are done by independent researchers. In the new report, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, Schillinger and his colleagues report that out of the 60 studies they reviewed, 26 did not find a relationship between sugary drinks and obesity or diabetes, and 34 did report a link. All of the studies that did not link the drinks to disease were funded by the beverage industry. Only one of the studies that did report a link was industry-funded.

“This industry seems to be manipulating contemporary scientific processes to create controversy and advance their business interests at the expense of the public’s health,” the study authors concluded in their report.

This is not the first time the soda or sugar industry has been criticized for interfering with public health. In October, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that between 2011 to 2015, 96 national health organizations accepted money from Coca-Cola, PepsiCo or both companies. In 2015 it was revealed that Coca-Cola funded an organization called the Global Energy Balance Network that tried to shift public health messaging away from a focus on diet and onto exercise.

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