Meat Institute to Researchers: Don’t Delay Sharing Results
In the wake of the long-delayed release of research on the healthfulness of vegetable oil, the head of the North American Meat Institute has called on researchers to release data from all food industry surveys in a timely fashion, whether or not they go against popular beliefs.
The North American Meat Institute (NAMI), a key industry group, is concerned that researchers are sharing only negative research about the industry and wants that to change.
This week, NAMI President and CEO Barry Carpenter raised questions about last week’s release of a National Institutes of Health analysis of data collected by the Minnesota Coronary Experiment (MCE) more than 40 years ago.
The research, conducted between 1968 and 1973, showed that in some cases, vegetable oil rich in linoleic acid actually presented more serious risks for heart health than did saturated fats. The MCE was a double-blind, randomized controlled trial conducted by Ivan Frantz and Ancel Keys, two researchers who made the now well-known recommendation that people eat a Mediterranean diet to improve heart health.
“The study’s findings were never published in full, perhaps because they went against the emerging and increasingly popular hypothesis that saturated fat in foods like red meat and dairy causes cholesterol levels in blood to rise, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and death,” The Huffington Post reported last week.
But now that the data is out there, Carpenter suggests that there is a tendency within the scientific community to conduct a study, find it goes against the accepted hypothesis, and then fail to report the results.
“Our nation’s nutrition policy should not be built on just half the story, but that is what happens when researchers may only have been able to publish papers that found linkages between foods and health outcomes, rather than those that found nothing,” Carpenter explained in an open letter [PDF] to the scientific community.
He noted that this may not be the only example of its kind out there. He cited Harvard Pooling Project research, released in abstract form at a 2004 conference, that found that red and processed meats were not associated with colon cancer. Consensus scientific opinion on processed meat and cancer has continued to lean the other way, with the World Health Organization last year arguing that processed meat was nearly as consistently carcinogenic as smoking.
“Is it possible there are other studies like these two examples that would contribute to our understanding of nutrition?” Carpenter asked.
The report comes at a time when the University of Maryland is facing scrutiny for associating a specific brand of chocolate milk with concussion prevention. The report came out without the full research made available and, according to the Associated Press, was timed to the release of the Will Smith movie Concussion.
“It’s time to shine a light on nutrition research – the good, the bad, the positive, and the negative,” Carpenter said. “Public health is at stake and nothing less should be tolerated.”
Vegetable oil was at the center of a study that sparked NAMI's concerns. (iStock/Thinkstock)