Lead Researcher in Dairy-Height Study Concealed Dairy Industry Connections

Animal Justice Demands St. Michael’s Hospital Stop Industry-Funded Research

TORONTO—Last week, St. Michael’s Hospital announced a study claiming that children who drink non-cow’s milk are shorter than children who drink cow’s milk, generating international headlines. Now, concerns are being raised about the integrity of the study and the honesty of its lead researcher.

When asked by science reporter Beth Mole about dairy industry funding, lead researcher Jonathon Maguire claimed to only have received “about $10,000 from the dairy farmers about ten years ago—and that’s it.”

In reality, in recent years, Maguire has received $90,000 from the Dairy Farmers of Canada and an undisclosed amount from the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, among other documented financial ties. The milk-height study itself was a project of TARGet Kids, which lists Dairy Farmers of Ontario and the Danone Institute as funders.

Maguire also denied having been involved with any dairy industry advisory committees. In reality, in 2016 he sat on the Dairy Farmers of Canada Expert Scientific Advisory Committee.

Maguire also apparently concealed his dairy industry ties in the conflict of interest declaration that authors sign before publishing research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The form requires that funding sources and potential conflicts be listed, yet a footnote to the study states, “None of the authors reported a conflict of interest related to this study.”

Now, Animal Justice is calling on St. Michael’s Hospital to stop accepting funding from industry lobbyists to maintain integrity in scientific research.

Dietitian Pamela Fergusson, who also holds a PhD in nutrition, said: “Researchers pointed to dietary protein and fat as a likely culprit, but this is an unsubstantiated hypothesis. A more concerning possibility is that if children drinking cow’s milk grow taller, this is a result of IGF-1, an insulin-like growth hormone naturally occurring in cow’s milk that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. I’m troubled that researchers would omit this possibility from their press release, though they did mention it in their published paper.”

Lawyer Anna Pippus, director of farmed animal advocacy for Animal Justice, said: “Science should not be for sale to those with the deepest pockets. The public relies on unbiased research from honest researchers to know how to make healthy and sustainable food choices. It’s clear that Dr. Maguire’s research and conclusions have been tainted by the dairy industry’s long and insidious reach.”

Previously, Maguire published dairy-industry-sponsored research concluding that children should drink two cups of milk each day to obtain adequate vitamin D. But vitamin D is not even naturally occurring in milk and is added as a supplement.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario states that “Physicians must not knowingly be involved in concealing research results or presenting them in a misleading fashion.” As a research institution, St. Michael’s must take this obligation seriously.

Previously, Animal Justice has filed complaints with federal regulators over Dairy Farmers of Canada advertisements disguised to look like public health announcements. Animal Justice has also exposed the federal government for funding research to actively seek out health benefits of dairy.

 

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The study can be found here.

For a detailed scientific critique of the study, please see here.

For more information, contact:

Anna Pippus
Director of Farmed Animal Advocacy
[email protected]