While epidemiological studies of the relationship between diet and health provide part of the jigsaw, they do not tell the whole story of nutrition.
Far more research is required, with randomly controlled intervention studies and meta-analyses, to untangle what is a highly complex subject, say leading academics.
However, some within public sector nutrition research argue that unless the state pays, the research cannot be trusted.
Research cannot be trusted
They have even called for a levy on the food industry to pay for this work. But those involved in industry-funded studies point out that this is unlikely to happen.
They argue that, provided good governance and independence is maintained – as it is in many other areas of scientific research, including pharmaceuticals research – there need be no problem of bias.
Many in the nutrition science community are also increasingly worried that media stories regarding nutrition frequently use the results of research very selectively to arrive at conclusions that are not supported by the evidence.
Professor Dame Anne Glover, giving this year’s Institute of Food Science & Technology annual lecture, warned that unless more scientists raised their voices and pointed out inaccuracies that often appear in the press and elsewhere, there was a serious danger that government policy could be set on less than rigorous scientific evidence.