Conflicts of interest may harm trust in pet food science

Since the researchers didn’t explicitly state that their funding sources could have influenced their results, yet their funding came from pet food companies, people could see that as an omission.

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(YakobchukOlena | Bigstock.com)
(YakobchukOlena | Bigstock.com)

One veterinarian’s scientific literature review didn’t reveal any evidence that grain-free cat food reduces the risk of feline obesity compared to conventional formulations. While grain-free cat foods’ influence on obesity was the main subject of her review, she also noted that undisclosed conflicts of interest could erode consumer and veterinarian’s trust in the objectivity of many studies results.

Potential conflicts of interest in cat food research

Although most published research didn’t mention any conflicts of interest, many of those studies did receive funds from pet food manufacturers, wrote Yaiza Gomez-Mejias in Veterinary Evidence. She speculated that funding could make some question the possible bias of the research. She didn’t claim that these studies actually were biased. She raised the concern that pet owners and veterinarians could perceive there to be a conflict of interest.

Since the researchers didn’t explicitly state that their funding sources could have influenced their results, yet their funding came from pet food companies, people could see that as an omission at best or a cover-up at worse. Considering the tendency of some consumer advocates to see conspiracy in the pet food industry, future research may benefit from explicitly stating funding sources as potential conflicts of interest and therefore possible sources of error. Scientists are humans too, and funding sources may have subconscious influences on researchers behavior, even if they are not explicitly cooking the books and claiming cold fusion.

Grain-free cat food and obesity

As for the actually research review, or Knowledge Summary as Veterinary evidence called it, Gomez-Mejias found no published research on the role of grain-free diets in preventing obesity in cats. However, she did find research that suggested grain did not contribute to obesity in cats. Ultimately, she concluded that more research was need comparing grain-free and conventional cat food formulations’ influence on cat obesity.

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