THE CSIRO has defended a controversial commercial partnership that produced a diet requiring participants to fast and purchase a particular brand of packaged meal-replacement shakes.
The federal government’s scientific research agency has come under fire following yesterday’s release of the “Flexi” diet, a joint project developed with weight-loss brand Impromy.
Sold as a “nutritionally balanced way to integrate the ‘intermittent fasting’ style of eating”, the scientist-backed diet boasts average results of 11kg lost in 16 weeks, while allowing users to “enjoy whatever foods and drinks you like!” for one day a week.
On the other days, dieters consume a “wide variety of whole foods” and “nutritionally balanced shakes” which are sold in chemists under the Impromy label.
The promoted results are impressive, and the research seems solid, but it’s the promotion of commercial products and questions around independence that has seen the CSIRO come under fire.
Speaking with the Adelaide Advertiser, South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon raised the conflict saying the agency needed to “fearlessly safeguard its independence” and added the deal highlighted the need for more research funding.
Respected Australian nutritionist Dr Rosemary Stanton questioned the longevity of the government-funded diet, asking whether users would be required to continue purchasing Impromy’s Flexi shakes for years to come.
“Will these people be expected to keep buying the products for ever? My preference would be for ‘real foods’,” she told the Advertiser.
A CSIRO spokeswoman defended lending the organisation’s name to the meal replacement company’s product, telling Fairfax: “The ‘I’ in CSIRO stands for industry, and we’ve been working with industry for 100 years.”
CSIRO research dietitian Dr Jane Bowen said the clinical trial was “the largest study on the use of meal replacements in intermittent fasting and resulted in substantial weight loss.”
The agency has argued that an increased interest among Australian in health an wellbeing has created a need for rigorous scientific method to validate the effectiveness of weight loss styles.
The CSIRO has previously partnered with commercial companies, including Impromy, in earlier studies. Last year it attracted outrage over a multi-million dollar research deal with vitamin giant Swisse.