Olly Wehring

Research shows... - well it would, wouldn't it?

By: Olly Wehring - 11 January 2007 16:13

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Soft drinks companies have been given one in the eye by the boffins, it appears.

A report this week by doctors from medical journal Plos Medicine has found significant sponsorship bias in articles about non-alcoholic drinks. The researchers graded 206 articles on soft drinks, fruit juices and milk - 54% of which were funded - as favourable, neutral, or unfavourable to the sponsor involved.

The doctors concluded that industry-sponsored papers were between four and eight times more likely to draw favourable conclusions for the manufacturer involved.

Examples of favourable research included the positive effects of milk on bone mass and nutrients in the elderly - supported by the US and Australian dairy industry - and the relationship between hydration and cola or coffee - funded by the Coca-Cola Company.

This is not to say that manufacturers in any way manufactured the research findings (excuse the pun). It remains an unquestionable truth that companies choose and fund research topics that play into their own hands - something they are perfectly entitled to do.

But while the consumer is well aware that Red Bull does not always give you wings, nor that Pepsi can really make you dance like that, scientifically proven benefits of a brand, presented in the mainstream news, can be a more powerful and subtle marketing tool.

That leaves the poor journalist - me - to decide what studies to report, and which ones are so blindingly obvious they hold about as much worth as testing fresh air for oxygen content.

Bet you feel sorry for me now, don’t you?

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