Last month a handful of news outlets published intriguing results from a recent health study: consuming dairy doesn’t raise your risk of heart attack or stroke after all! Wait, what? We already know that eating dairy affects your health, so what gives?
Abundant Research Bias
Researchers at three universities in the U.K., Denmark and the Netherlands performed the study as a meta-analysis of 29 previous studies. A meta-analysis is a type of statistical analysis that integrates results of multiple scientific studies. In theory, this seems like a sound technique to get a thorough understanding of available data. However, this analysis only represents a tiny fraction of available data. Why were these 29 selected? Because they supported the conclusion that they wanted to sell.
Conflicts of Interest
The concept of cherry-picking studies for meta-analysis is not new. Big Pharma has been cherry-picking for years to construct studies that portray them in a positive light. In 2010, researches looked at the entire body of evidence regarding five major classes of pharmaceuticals. They focused on two key factors: were they positive and were they industry-funded. The results? Industry-funded studies were positive 85 percent of the time, compared with just 50 percent of the government funded trials. That’s a sizable and disturbing difference.
The bias doesn’t end there. A 2010 article published in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences asked the question, “Is meta-analysis the platinum standard of evidence?” The author referenced startling unethical proclivities of analysts who were involved in studies linking smoking and health effects. According to the author “analysts who had received funding from the tobacco industry were 88 times more likely to conclude that passive smoking has no adverse health effects compared with analysts who had not received tobacco funding.” You read that right: 88 times more likely.
We know that billions of dollars are at stake here; the dairy industry is in crisis and this is their attempt at damage control. The egg industry has the same tricks up their sleeve. They, too, design studies that conveniently hide the fact that consumption of their product leads to severe health concerns. Both industries are not only deceiving consumers, but knowingly putting consumer lives in danger for profit.