Researcher Promoting Red Meat, Sugar Failed To Disclose Industry Ties

Posted: Jan 08, 2020

The ties call into question the lead researcher's motivation.

A controversial researcher known for bucking the well-established dietary advice that people should limit their sugar and red meat intake has, once again, failed to disclose his financial ties to the food industry.

Epidemiologist Bradley Johnston failed to report funding from a research agency backed by the beef industry when he published a high-profile review on red meat consumption, according to the journal that published the review last year, Annals of Internal Medicine. The review concluded that consumers should continue—not reduce—their consumption of red and processed meats, which has been fiercely criticized by nutrition experts.

Annals issued a correction on the review last week, updating the review's accompanying disclosure forms.

In the correction notice, Annals editors stated that Johnston's industry-linked grant money was specifically for studying saturated and polyunsaturated fats. The Washington Post reported further detail on the grant money, saying that Johnston and his former employer Dalhousie University received $76,863 to conduct a new meta-analysis on saturated fat.

That grant money came from AgriLife Research, a part of Texas A&M University that is partially funded by the beef industry. According to Patrick Stover, vice-chancellor and dean of AgriLife, the Texas research agency received more than $2 million in funding from the beef industry in 2019 alone.

Stover was also a co-author on the Annals study with Johnston, along with an international team of researchers. Stover has since hired Johnston as an associate professor of community health and epidemiology at Texas A&M.

All of this raises questions about whether Johnston had an agenda to downplay the health risks of red and processed meats—which can be high in saturated fats.

Such questions are not new to Johnston.

Tainted food studies
In 2016, Johnston led another high-profile, widely panned study that concluded that the recommendation to reduce sugar intake is based on weak scientific evidence.

By Beth Mole 
January 7, 2020
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