Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Last Time We Encountered Penn State Nutritionist Penny Kris-Etherton....

...she was, with the help of The Penn State Propaganda Shop, touting the health benefits of chocolate without any mention that her research on chocolate had been funded by Hershey's. She and The Penn State Propaganda Shop, at a minimum, had an ethical obligation to reveal her funding source, since, as I noted in another blog post, research has shown that industry funded nutrition research tends to be biased in favor of the funding industry.

Well, today Kris-Etherton and The Penn State Propaganda Shop are back, this time promoting the health benefits of Pistachio nuts and they've met the minimum conflict-of-interest standard with the following information at the bottom of the press release, "The Western Pistachio Association supported this work."

That's a baby step in the right direction, but it does not go nearly far enough.

While technically truthful, the press release is misleading in a way that can only be construed to be deliberate.

Let's take a closer look at the piece from The Penn State Propaganda Portal. Here's the lede,
Pistachio nuts, eaten as part of a healthy diet, can increase the levels of antioxidants in the blood of adults with high cholesterol, according to an international team of nutritional scientists.
In paragraphs six and seven, we are told that
"Currently, studies on antioxidants do not show major benefits," said Kris-Etherton. "...The antioxidant story is very disappointing to the scientific community."

The reason for the disappointment is that studies on specific antioxidants currently do not show health benefits..
Kris-Etherton and her co-workers found that adding pistachios to an otherwise healthy diet increases the presence of antioxidants in the blood, but there is no evidence of a health benefit from antioxidant.

Now compare this with the headline on the press release
Pistachios offer multiple health benefits
and the second paragraph
"Our previous study showed the benefits of pistachios in lowering lipids and lipoproteins, which are a risk factor for heart disease," said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition, Penn State. "This new study shows an additional effect of pistachios so now there are multiple health benefits of eating pistachios."
In paragraph two, Kris-Etherton contradicts what she says in paragraphs six and seven. And in paragraphs six and seven, she throws up a bunch of flak, which I cutout, to distract from the basic fact that there are no known health benefits from antioxidants.

An honest headline would be "Pistachios increase antioxidants in the blood", but that  wouldn't  sell as many nuts as "Pistachios offer multiple health benefits.", would it?

Penn State pimping for industry since 1855.

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