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Organic food 'not any healthier'  RSS feed

 
Todd Hoff
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Interesting study: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-19465692

"Eating organic food will not make you healthier, according to researchers at Stanford University, although it could cut your exposure to pesticides. They looked at more than 200 studies of the content and associated health gains of organic and non-organic foods. Overall, there was no discernable difference between the nutritional content, although the organic food was 30% less likely to contain pesticides."

Lots of potential counters, but are there studies on the nutritional density of organic foods?
 
Robert Ray
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I for one was not worried about nutritional density but am worried about the pesticides.
 
Todd Hoff
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Me too Robert, but they had nothing really to say on the aspect of the situation, so I was wondering more about their other conclusions.
 
Devon Olsen
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this just kinda proves that conventional organic isnt nessecarily getting more nutrients, they didnt test plants that were in healthy soil in a healthy polyculture...
 
Margaret Wolf
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I have never purchased organic foods because I thought they were more nutritious...it has always been about staying away from genetically modified foods, and pesticides. For me that makes organic foods intrinsically healthier. I smell "Monster-santo" behind this testing...

Margaret
 
Devon Olsen
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i think Margaret may be right about mansanto being involved, it does them a lot of good to shut down the "organic" movement as crazy, uninformed people
 
Tyler Ludens
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Could depend on what nutrients were studied.

Here's an older study: http://www.organic-center.org/science.nutri.php?action=view&report_id=157

Eating pesticides may be unhealthy and there are fewer pesticides in organic: http://www.ewg.org/release/organic-produce-reduces-exposure-pesticides-research-confirms

But I think for many of us, myself certainly, the reason to avoid conventionally grown food and even cast a critical eye at industrial organic, is the damage to the world other than just our own personal selves. Conventional agriculture is tremendously destructive to virtually all life, and hazardous to the people who engage in it.
 
Brenda Groth
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then there is "organic" or so called, and permaculture.. a field of organic hybrid corn is still a monoculture and will still have the same types of corn benefit as any other monoculture corn..

but then there is the polyculture, where the corn is interplanted with other plants, some which might be drawing nutrients up from many feed below the surface..or might be feeding the soil with nitrogen, or whatever..I'd rather see an HONEST comparison of a food forest corn and another and see if there isn't some difference in nutrient content..or not just corn but other foods..

I agree that probably this is done by a devious company
 
Scott Jackson
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Sounds like the typical brainwashing routine via "science" as badge of truth. I've always purchased locally grown organic food to promote a healthier eco-system and to support people who give a damn. Any experiment can be made to mean anything if you delete enough variables from the data set (i.e. health of the planet, health of the local economy, health of flora and fauna, etc...). Sounds like a complete load of bollocks, just in time for the GMO labelling bill on the California ballot this fall.

http://organicconsumersfund.org/label/

If this law passes in California, which would require labelling of all food and drinks containing GMOS, it will mean a total shakeup for the vast majority of agro-food corporations in the US. And a major victory for us humans at that.
 
Craig Dobbson
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My understanding of this study is that it shows that there isn't a difference in Nutrient content and density between conventionally grown foods and those that are grown organically. There's nothing to be said about the pesticide, herbicide or fungicide content of the foods studied. I agree that all of those things make a food more toxic or have other detrimental effects on the body, but that doesn't have anything to do with the nutrient content of that food. Language is very important and it's often the case that the journalist reporting about the study is the one whose made a mistake. "Nutritious" is not the same as "healthy" and it seems that that is where the mistake is being made here.
I'm all for organic but as we've seen "organic" is a term which is being adulterated as well. For me, a local (home grown) carrot that hasn't ever been sprayed, dipped or dusted by anything is a more "healthy" option even if it has the same nutritional content and density as the conventionally grown carrot from the store.
A scientific study can only look at one variable at a time in order to be valid. Perhaps one day there will be a study to compare the toxicity effects of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides of conventional ag vs. Organic pesticides, Organic herbicides and organic fungicides. Of course they could also include a third group of foods which are void of all those toxins. Though I think we'll come right back to the argument about whether the yields on large scale food growing operations are enough to feed the population at a reasonable cost if we omit all the pesticide,fungicide and herbicide.

It seems that it's a lot more complicated that just pointing a finger at a bad guy and saying "just do it my way and we'll all be fine".

 
Tyler Ludens
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'
The study, which used data from hundreds of previous studies, also looked at pork and chicken.

Researchers found a 33% greater risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in non-organic pork and chicken, which they say "may be related to the routine use of antibiotics in conventional animal husbandry."'

http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/03/health/organics-versus-conventional/index.html

I think the title "Organic food 'not any healthier'" is misleading.
 
Victor Johanson
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If "organic" simply means using the same cultural practices as conventional farming and substituting organic inputs, it's no big surprise that the end product isn't very distinct or superior. Organic is a label that has been co-opted by agribusiness, which is more concerned with cost cutting and profits than quality. No doubt it's preferable and worth supporting if only to help growers transition from universally toxic rescue chemistry, but one shouldn't expect what's found on the supermarket shelf to be anything more than a generic commodity.
 
Walter Jeffries
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Organic food 'not any healthier'


Feel free to eat the chemical laced, -cided, GMOed stuff. It's your choice.

I'll choose otherwise for myself and my family. Time will tell.
 
Paulo Bessa
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This doesn´t change my mind at all.

First, because conventional farming interests and biotech might have easily sponsored this study. But I haven´t dig that to confirm that.

If they were honest researchers (without giving a twist to fit their interests), then it might have been that most organic food is grown in depleted soils, because they are basically running monocultures in same depleted soils. I wonder if permaculture or biodynamic grown food would be more nutrient rich.

At least, at the very min, you can rest assured you will eat less chemicals (more healthy), less changes of GMOs (unknown health effects), support local and organic growers and at least it´s an improvement in the environmental impact of organic farming compared to cnventional farming. Organic food also generally tastes better, and growing your own organic food that is even better taste and freshness!

I don´t want to support conventional farming and big interests. So I stick to my organic and locally grown preference. If it´s permaculture, even better.

 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
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The stanford study was questionable work picked up by the media without any critical analysis.... here are some articles that examine the study in more depth.

a rebuttal of study

and another from mother jones
 
Marc Troyka
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This reminds me of something I read recently, and even the US DoA admits it; the micronutrient values of food grown in the US have decreased 25-75% since 1940. Thanks to our superhuman efforts of dumping sewage in the ocean, all the nutrients have been sucked out and thrown away. Switching to organic /permaculture will not necessarily solve this, either, however avoiding pesticides and herbicides is a good enough reason to prefer organic in my book. Even food labeled 'organic' in developed countries isn't really worth anything, though, and if you travel the world at all and return you notice immediately how miserable, beaten, and sick westerners (and Americans especially) look in comparison to people who eat 'real' food.
 
Elia Charalambides
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
I think the title "Organic food 'not any healthier'" is misleading.


I would add "wildly misleading" or "irresponsibly misleading". Whatever happened to actual journalism? After a bit of typing and few clicks of my mouse, bam two seconds later:
http://grist.org/food/2011-08-02-not-your-grandmas-strawberries/
(The infographic at the bottom of the article is particularly astounding)

Apparently common sense needs to be reworded to rare sense in the mainstream media world. Conventional Ag and Mono-crop organic are practically the same thing if all you are measuring is nutrient value. Both practices take a field, kill all life, and plant one crop.

The whole article could be summed up in this one quote.
"None of the human studies ran for longer than two years, making conclusions about long-term outcomes impossible."

Modern Ag has taken practically a century to completely denude the soil of enormous fertility. Carrying out a study that lasts two years using identical growing methods but just removing chemicals will OBVIOUSLY not show much difference.
 
Elia Charalambides
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...and the actual study
http://www.jacn.org/content/23/6/669.long
 
James Colbert
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A simple indicator of nutrition is taste. The better something taste's the better it is for you. On the flip side you can quantify nutrition with a measurement of BRIX. Measuring BRIX is simple to do and can be done with a $40 dollar refractometer. The higher the BRIX the higher the nutrition and the better the flavor. Brix is higher in plants that are healthy, heirloom, wild, and that are dry farmed. Dry farmed tomatoes are all the rage in San Francisco now because of their intense flavor. Next year I will be doing a lot of experiments with dry farming to improve the quality of the food that I eat.
 
Marc Troyka
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James Colbert wrote:A simple indicator of nutrition is taste. The better something taste's the better it is for you. On the flip side you can quantify nutrition with a measurement of BRIX. Measuring BRIX is simple to do and can be done with a $40 dollar refractometer. The higher the BRIX the higher the nutrition and the better the flavor. Brix is higher in plants that are healthy, heirloom, wild, and that are dry farmed. Dry farmed tomatoes are all the rage in San Francisco now because of their intense flavor. Next year I will be doing a lot of experiments with dry farming to improve the quality of the food that I eat.


BRIX only measures sugar content, and is not a reliable measure of nutrient value. Neither is flavor a reliable measure, although foods grown in nutrient rich soil do tend to taste better than those grown on poor/leached soil.
 
James Colbert
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M Troyka wrote:
James Colbert wrote:A simple indicator of nutrition is taste. The better something taste's the better it is for you. On the flip side you can quantify nutrition with a measurement of BRIX. Measuring BRIX is simple to do and can be done with a $40 dollar refractometer. The higher the BRIX the higher the nutrition and the better the flavor. Brix is higher in plants that are healthy, heirloom, wild, and that are dry farmed. Dry farmed tomatoes are all the rage in San Francisco now because of their intense flavor. Next year I will be doing a lot of experiments with dry farming to improve the quality of the food that I eat.


BRIX only measures sugar content, and is not a reliable measure of nutrient value. Neither is flavor a reliable measure, although foods grown in nutrient rich soil do tend to taste better than those grown on poor/leached soil.


BRIX is an accurate measure of nutrition. The higher sugar content of the plant indicates higher levels of plant health and there is a direct correlation to nutrient density. Plants with higher levels of BRIX taste better, so yes taste is a good means of determining nutrition. Makes complete sense as well. Check out the link...http://www.highbrixgardens.com/home-highbrixgardens.html
 
James Colbert
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And this... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfftzI3CWIU
 
Donovan Wentworth
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Personally, I've never considered my direct personal health to be what's important about supporting more responsible agriculture. There are billions of people who eat pesticide-laden, non-organically grown food every day and go on to lead reasonably long, healthy lives. The real issues at stake, in my opinion, are the effect on our environment (e.g. saving the bees, topsoil, etc.) and the sustainability of our lifestyles. Industrial ag is still a poison pill, even if eating its produce won't kill you.
 
Ken Peavey
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I read that story somewhere else. I found the conclusions to be subjective-there is no data gathered, only a reinterpretation of other studies which I suspect were cherry picked. Then I ran it through Google. It has been published by scores of websites, newspapers, and television networks. I checked on the authors. Their credentials check out, but they show only a couple of papers each at most, with several grad students whom I suspect did the 'research.'

Such massive dissemination, literally overnight, of an innocuous study by rarely published authors reeks of shilling.

 
Matt River
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I am just starting to dig into the specifics of this study. For starters, they ignored and discounted hundreds of studies and tests that prove higher nutritional content in organic foods. Of the 200 studies, most test-based studies actually also showed higher contents of vitamins and properly balanced omega fatty acids in meat. But the conclusion for the Shamford study was the very questionable data from 17 studies that made attempts to compare "actual health benefits" between organic food eaters and non-organic eaters. These studies were bunk to start with just as are most statistical studies of random factors. Any conclusions drawn are false. Any attempt to correlate health data based on current eating habits is ridiculous. One major factor is that many, many people who eat organic are force to eat organic because of underlying health conditions related to environmental toxicity and chemical poisoning. Thus, these people's health has already been damaged due to sensitivity to industrial poisons.

Organic produce DOES have more vitamins, keeps much much longer, tastes better, and at least a certain amount of the money goes to real farmers instead of mega-corporations. Beyond harboring antibiotic resistant bacterium, conventional produce is also exposed to the radically altered soil chemistry of glyphosphate sterilized soils - remember the virus-sized flesh eater they have found in the soil?
 
Tom Painemaru
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I really don't need any external validation to support my belief that home-grown poison-free food is healthier. I know it tastes better; I know I feel better when I eat it and that's enough for me.

 
J D Horn
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Just remember the context of the release of this study. Prop 37 (California initiative to label GMOs) is on the ballot this fall. This study and the attending news stories hit the press for the news cycle after the Labor Day weekend - when political analysts say the general public actually starts to listen to info about Novemeber ballot issues. And its from Stanford, a brand name university that carries cache.

Be ready for more propoganda. There are 12 GMO crops up for fast-track approval by USDA.
http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_26072.cfm
 
Rick Larson
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Matt River wrote:I am just starting to dig into the specifics of this study. For starters, they ignored and discounted hundreds of studies and tests that prove higher nutritional content in organic foods. Of the 200 studies, most test-based studies actually also showed higher contents of vitamins and properly balanced omega fatty acids in meat. But the conclusion for the Shamford study was the very questionable data from 17 studies that made attempts to compare "actual health benefits" between organic food eaters and non-organic eaters. These studies were bunk to start with just as are most statistical studies of random factors. Any conclusions drawn are false. Any attempt to correlate health data based on current eating habits is ridiculous. One major factor is that many, many people who eat organic are force to eat organic because of underlying health conditions related to environmental toxicity and chemical poisoning. Thus, these people's health has already been damaged due to sensitivity to industrial poisons.

Organic produce DOES have more vitamins, keeps much much longer, tastes better, and at least a certain amount of the money goes to real farmers instead of mega-corporations. Beyond harboring antibiotic resistant bacterium, conventional produce is also exposed to the radically altered soil chemistry of glyphosphate sterilized soils - remember the virus-sized flesh eater they have found in the soil?


Thanks. I reject all studies that reflect benefits to the current agri-business model. But thats just me. I know the marketing - like this study - is always slanted towards whomever has the most money to spend on it (marketing). I even wonder; where did the money came from to fund this particular study?

Thanks again.
 
John Polk
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(Almost) all universities, both public and private, depend on 'outside money' to fund their many functions.
Most of those funds come from industry.

As an example, Penn State is in the home town of Bayer, U.S. Is it any coincidence that BayerAg 'donates' millions to Penn's research?

Most Ag schools depend on BigAg for funding. Is it any wonder that most Extension agents promote BigChem?

 
Tyler Ludens
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Organic Food Debunker was Tobacco Institute Researcher in 1976 http://www.opednews.com/articles/1/Organic-Food-Debunker-was-by-Michael-Collins-120906-964.html
 
Theodore Heistman
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I think free range organic pork is not even in the same food group as commercially raided pork, I wouldn't want to live that long anyway if all I had to eat was factory farmed pork!
 
Marc Troyka
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Theodore Heistman wrote:I think free range organic pork is not even in the same food group as commercially raided pork, I wouldn't want to live that long anyway if all I had to eat was factory farmed pork!


You could say the same of chicken, beef, milk, eggs, etc etc. And vegetables.. and fruits..

It's interesting that in traditional french cooking, a cow younger than 8 years was considered too young to eat, and game recipes all call for "old fowl" or "old partridge". Modern factory farms cull cows just a few years old (one or two, I think), chickens after ~12 months, and probably similar treatment for other animals. Add to that a diet of food pellets and a life of one dimension in a cage in their own swill, and it really is like a different food group. Even "organic" food falls far short of what fine ingredients should be.
 
Matt River
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To add to the comment above, think of how much longer a clean, hand picked unwashed egg will keep compared to the factory eggs that are dunked in foul water by the million, seriously, 50 or a hundred gallon tanks washing hundreds of thousands of dirty cage eggs. Store potatos and onions? With the wonders of neutral atmosphere supercooler warehouses, your commercial produce will be dead when you get it, improperly handled and preserved to boot. My potatos and onions not only taste way better, they keep for, oh yeah, around 10 to 12 months compared to under two weeks if you are lucky for store garbage. Ever think about all of the potatos and other root crops grown in the chemical soaked soil sprayed on, say, they corn rotation, the year before? Do not eat that. Ever.
 
Eric Thomas
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This is the abstract of the study from the Annals of Internal Medicine. Doesn't sound like something I would bet the farm on (emphasis is mine).
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review
Crystal Smith-Spangler, MD, MS; Margaret L. Brandeau, PhD; Grace E. Hunter, BA; J. Clay Bavinger, BA; Maren Pearson, BS; Paul J. Eschbach; Vandana Sundaram, MPH; Hau Liu, MD, MS, MBA, MPH; Patricia Schirmer, MD; Christopher Stave, MLS; Ingram Olkin, PhD; and Dena M. Bravata, MD, MS

Background: The health benefits of organic foods are unclear.

Purpose: To review evidence comparing the health effects of organic and conventional foods.

Data Sources: MEDLINE (January 1966 to May 2011), EMBASE, CAB Direct, Agricola, TOXNET, Cochrane Library (January 1966 to May 2009), and bibliographies of retrieved articles.

Study Selection: English-language reports of comparisons of organically and conventionally grown food or of populations consuming these foods.

Data Extraction: 2 independent investigators extracted data on methods, health outcomes, and nutrient and contaminant levels.

Data Synthesis: 17 studies in humans and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods met inclusion criteria. Only 3 of the human studies examined clinical outcomes, finding no significant differences between populations by food type for allergic outcomes (eczema, wheeze, atopic sensitization) or symptomatic Campylobacter infection. Two studies reported significantly lower urinary pesticide levels among children consuming organic versus conventional diets, but studies of biomarker and nutrient levels in serum, urine, breast milk, and semen in adults did not identify clinically meaningful differences. All estimates of differences in nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were highly heterogeneous except for the estimate for phosphorus; phosphorus levels were significantly higher than in conventional produce, although this difference is not clinically significant. The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce (risk difference, 30% [CI, −37% to −23%]), but differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small. Escherichia coli contamination risk did not differ between organic and conventional produce. Bacterial contamination of retail chicken and pork was common but unrelated to farming method. However, the risk for isolating bacteria resistant to 3 or more antibiotics was higher in conventional than in organic chicken and pork (risk difference, 33% [CI, 21% to 45%]).

Limitation: Studies were heterogeneous and limited in number, and publication bias may be present.

Conclusion: The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Primary Funding Source: None.
 
Rick Larson
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Primary funding source none? The people doing the study did it for free?

Who paid the bills associated with the utilities and buildings? >

I don't believe it.

 
Marc Troyka
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Rick Larson wrote:Primary funding source none? The people doing the study did it for free?

Who paid the bills associated with the utilities and buildings? >

I don't believe it.


It looks like a meta-review, so all they did was read other people's papers. That's probably how no funding was possible .
 
Eric Thomas
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"Studies were heterogeneous". As they used to say in my former life as a corporate prostitute, "if you want linear test results, only choose two data points." A Heinz 9780 tomato is designed to survive mechanical picking, processing and a 2,000 mile tour of the countryside, (and the blade of a slicing knife) and only nominally to be nutritious, regardless of how it was grown. I'd like to see them stack one up to one of mine.

They also, of course, failed to include the health cost effects of burning fossil fuels to get the stuff all the way across the country and then keep it nice and cozy at a well lit, heavily refrigerated mega-food-mart and the fuel to get very small quantities of nutrients to each individual household for consumption.

The fact that the study was produced in a state that produces about 36% of all fresh veg and fruit in the US should be a clear tip-off as to the funding source, however indirect or arms-length.

I think the upshot of all of this is that this is senseless dreck and fodder for the 24 hour news cycle that panders to the fat, stupid and cheap. And look at the authors, all (presumably) respected doctors who really should know better.
 
Rick Larson
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M Troyka wrote:
Rick Larson wrote:Primary funding source none? The people doing the study did it for free?

Who paid the bills associated with the utilities and buildings? >

I don't believe it.


It looks like a meta-review, so all they did was read other people's papers. That's probably how no funding was possible .


Well then, who paid for what they read?
 
Rick Larson
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Eric Thomas wrote:"Studies were heterogeneous".


The fact that the study was produced in a state that produces about 36% of all fresh veg and fruit in the US should be a clear tip-off as to the funding source, however indirect or arms-length.



Yeah.
 
Marc Troyka
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Rick Larson wrote:
M Troyka wrote:
Rick Larson wrote:Primary funding source none? The people doing the study did it for free?

Who paid the bills associated with the utilities and buildings? >

I don't believe it.


It looks like a meta-review, so all they did was read other people's papers. That's probably how no funding was possible .


Well then, who paid for what they read?


Eh, given the evidence you're probably right, but if it was written by a professor, they would have a free ticket to all the big research sites from the school. I wouldn't expect someone to write a study like this out of the goodness of their heart though, and the weasel words they use are typical of scientists with a motive. Not having read the paper myself, I can't make a judgment on its honesty, but the data used was obviously of no value.
 
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