Best Universities For Nutrition – Tufts Nutrition Compass… It’s Worse Than You Thought Kellogg’s, General Mills and PepsiCo are paying to support Tufts – with over 100 products ranked
A new food rating system that gave high ratings to Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs while discrediting eggs has come under fire recently, with Fox News taking on it in several segments (one with me) and Joe Rogan declaring that the rankings are ” complete”. , unquestionable, indefensible nonsense.” It sounds harsh, but the lead author from Tufts University pushed back, saying his system, called Food Compass, is actually “more comprehensive” than most such rubrics and is misrepresented. I looked again and found this: Food Compass is even worse than I thought. And Tufts is funded by almost the same companies whose ultra-processed foods top the charts.
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In October 2021, and only gained significant attention when a few months later, a group of scientists wrote a critique that included a pyramid chart that went viral. (The paper came out as a preprint and didn’t find a publisher for almost a year, but maybe because of all the recent publicity it finally came out last week
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The subpackage, written in preprint last July, was read by about 70,000 people and then picked up by startup Justin Mares, who wrote a guest blog on the topic for Piratewires.com. Soon Fox News called.
Some later accounts were incorrect. This chart was not actually the government’s “new food pyramid.” Yes, the study was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health, but its results were not adopted as national policy.
Still, lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition and Policy at Tufts (currently on leave to pursue policy full-time), is clearly close to the government. In 2018, he helped found the Food As Medicine group on Capitol Hill, led by Congressman Jim McGovern, and they have since collaborated on events on the Hill. Mozaffarian was a key witness in the 2021 Senate nutrition hearings chaired by Cory Booker and was credited as the lead organizer of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health last fall, which generated $8 billion in private sector and health revenues. public sector investments in the food sector. Former senators, USDA secretaries and other high-level government officials form several task forces, co-chaired by Mozaffarian. (Additionally, he appears to have been one of the few dietitians to speak at Davos last month and was with the CEOs of Unilever and PepsiCo at the 2020 WEF Food System Summit).
Given Mozaffarian’s sphere of influence, it’s worth taking a closer look at his work on Food Compass – especially since Tufts makes clear in its press release its ambition for the product to be used to inform consumers about choices, industry transformation, investor decision-making and government policy, programs and, among others, “marketing to children.”
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In this article, Mozaffarian further argues that it is time for the Food Compass to be used to guide ESG (environmental, social and governance) investments in the food sector as a lever to align financial interests with social good. and the planet.”
I was told that the Rockefeller Foundation, which had previously funded much of Mozaffarian’s research and political efforts, was also seriously considering promoting Food Compass.
It remains a mystery how Mozaffarian’s nutrition colleagues came to fully embrace a nutritional compass that doesn’t even pass the average person’s sniff test. In terms of rejection, only the hard-to-publish article mentioned above, whose authors are mainly non-dietitians, appeared.
And another article by a scientist who seems primarily interested in defending the superiority of his own competing nutrient profiling system.
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Instead of being criticized for ranking Cheerios as one of the healthiest foods in the world, Food Compass has apparently been deemed completely trustworthy – and a team of Greek researchers have already tested it in hospitals.
As I asked rhetorically in my previous Substack on this topic: What dystopian world has nutritional science entered, where a university, a peer-reviewed journal, and one of the most influential leaders in the field legitimize advice telling the public to eat more? Lucky Charms and fewer eggs?
The explanation, I think, is that the world of nutrition is so intertwined with corporate interests that experts don’t even realize that their “expert views” are dangerously close to industry propaganda. The growing influence of corporations in this field has been going on since at least 1941, when General Foods, Quaker Oats, Heinz, Corn Products Refining Corporation, and other emerging food processing companies established the Nutrition Foundation to donate money. to universities to conduct nutrition research.
By now, the practice of food and pharmaceutical companies has been fully standardized, influencing science, professional organizations, conferences, etc. For example:
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Mozaffarian is clearly no stranger to working closely with Big Food. In 2021-2022, he was the keynote speaker at the national “Food As Medicine” conference with the participation of executives from PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever and Danone, the four largest food companies in the world. He served on Unilever’s scientific advisory board for several years and chaired the Tufts “FORCE” consortium, which is developing articles benefiting seed oils, with the “unrestricted support” of Unilever, a major producer of these oils for many years. At Tufts, Mozaffarian apparently welcomed partnerships with food companies, such as a project with General Mills to “develop strategies to engage more effectively with millennials.” He also has a list of companies with which he has personal ties, including Bunge, Tiny Organics, Beren Therapeutics, Brightseed, Calibrate, Elysium Health, Filtricine, Foodome, HumanCo, January Inc., Perfect Day, Season and Barilla Pasta.
Could the Food Compass have been influenced by so many entities from the food industry? A tip from a reader (thanks, Coley Hudgins) led me to the Institute for Food and Nutrition Innovation at the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition, which receives funding from about 60 companies, including quite a few whose products top Compass’ offerings. This includes Kellogg’s, a Tufts Institute “Gold Member”, which had 40 products in the Food Compass (see table above).
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I have a copy of the “Gold Member” contract which specifies an annual fee of $75,000, but I don’t know if that amount is standard or what other membership tiers might be charged. The agreement also states that “No action by the Food and Innovation Council shall permit or encourage the influence of Tufts research results….” This clearly prohibits any pay-to-play scenario, and indeed there is no evidence that these companies paid for inclusion. However, regardless of how these items ended up in Food Compass, it was the responsibility of the authors (and reviewers) to determine that something was seriously wrong.
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In Mozaffarian’s defense, his Compass gives most fresh fruits and vegetables 100 points. According to these rankings, kale, dandelion, savoy cabbage, watercress, and something called charmenul are all super healthy. However, processed foods are strangely favored over real foods, with frozen oak juice (with added calcium) scoring 11 points higher than freshly squeezed, for example. The consumption of most fruit juices should also be encouraged, although they are now widely considered a reliable way to quickly raise blood sugar levels.
Compass rankings show a preference for ultra-processed foods. For example, lightly salted “reclaimed” potato chips are almost as high in protein as regular potatoes.
. While the margin on a regular potato is negligible, if you peel, cut, fry, salt, recover and package potato chips in a fancy bag, your profit margin increases. Very.
Mozaffarian himself seemed to recognize in his Food Compass the problem of overestimating the value of highly processed food. In response to recent criticism, he said: “We are looking for ways to scientifically improve the results. We are considering processing, but maybe we should consider it even more.
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Still, there was no talk of fixing or retiring the Food Compass, and Mozaffarian’s paddling comes after his team “validated” the Food Compass last fall. More “Chocolate-covered almonds have been claimed to provide better health.
Indeed, according to Tufts, chocolate almond milk (unsweetened) is the number one healthiest dairy product you can buy.
Here you can see how Compass rates fake cheese compared to real cheese. Soy milk instead of real milk. Meatless chicken, even breaded and fried, with real chicken. And so on.
I would like to believe that most people are still skeptical about fake food. If we don’t, maybe it will be because experts like those at Tufts have convinced us. Here is another chart that confirms this thesis:
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Are MnMs and Reeces cups healthier than ground beef? In addition to the many nutrients and complete protein that beef provides, the fact is that meat (and eggs and cheese) does not contain glucose and therefore does not generally raise blood sugar levels, which are the main cause of diabetes.
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