Industry influences sugar drink studies

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Studies on sugar drinks influenced by financial interests

In the past, researchers have repeatedly examined the influence of sugary soft drinks on weight. However, some of the study results differed widely from one another. Potsdam researchers have now come to the conclusion that many studies have been influenced by financial interests on the part of industry. In the journal "PLOS Medicine" they present their analysis of the systematic reviews together with colleagues from the University of Navarre in Spain.

For the most part, industry-sponsored studies have shown no connection between the consumption of sugar beverages and weight gain. As part of a research cooperation between the German Institute for Nutritional Research (DifE) and the University of Navarre in Spain, scientists uncovered that systematic reviews, in which a financial conflict of interest through industrial Funding existed, five times more often came to the conclusion that there was no connection between the consumption of sugary soft drinks and weight gain than studies for which no funding from the industry had been received. 83.3 percent of the studies in which there was no conflict of interest showed that high consumption of sugary drinks is directly related to weight gain.

83.3 percent of the studies in which there were conflicts of interest also came to the opposite conclusion. "Although our investigation was not aimed at clarifying which interpretation of the available data is correct, we are concerned about the results, as they suggest that financial conflicts of interest can influence the conclusions of a review," explains Matthias Schulze, co-author and head of the Department of Molecular Epidemiology at DIfE.

Systematic reviews attempt to use certain methods to collect, summarize and interpret the available knowledge on a topic. As the researchers report, the industrially funded reviews frequently found no connection between the consumption of sugar beverages and being overweight, although the original papers came to the contrary. This suggests inaccuracies that should be taken into account in statements based on industrially funded studies. (ag)

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