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Sunday 3 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C
AP/Press Association Images
diet coke

Coca Cola gave $1.5 million to scientists who say soft drinks don't cause obesity

A leading cardiologist says that’s not true at all.

SOFT DRINK GIANT Coca Cola has spent millions funding scientists who argue that people should not cut down on their calorie intake.

A New York Times story published yesterday reported that the American arm of the company spent as much as $1.5 million on the launch of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN). The network’s scientists endorse the idea that removing fast food and soft drinks from your diet would not help fight obesity.

Instead, the company wanted researchers to argue that working out more could counter the effects of a bad diet.

One of the founders of GEBN, Steven Blair, argues that “fitness trumps fatness” in a number of videos.

ShareWIK / YouTube

In one released just last week, he said:

“Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on, and there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

Blair’s opinion runs counter to a recent study by a group of cardiologists led by Dr Aseem Malhotra of Frimley Park Hospital and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which said that people could not outrun a bad diet.

The study, published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine said that “physical activity does not promote weight loss”.

Malhotra took specific aim at Coca Cola in his paper.

Coca Cola, who spent $3.3 billion on advertising in 2013, pushes a message that ‘all calories count’; they associate their products with sport, suggesting it is ok to consume their drinks as long as you exercise.

“However science tells us this is misleading and wrong. It is where the calories come from that is crucial. Sugar calories promote fat storage and hunger. Fat calories induce fullness or ‘satiation’.

The public health messaging around diet and exercise, and their relationship to the epidemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity, has been corrupted by vested interests. Celebrity endorsements of sugary drinks, and the association of junk food and sport, must end. The ‘health halo’ legitimisation of nutritionally deficient products is misleading and unscientific.

BMJ talk medicine / SoundCloud

For their part, Coca Cola told the New York Times that it has long worked on scientific research relating to its products.

““We partner with some of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and physical activity.

“It’s important to us that the researchers we work with share their own views and scientific findings, regardless of the outcome, and are transparent and open about our funding.”

The Times article also points out that this arrangement is far from unique. Pepsi, Hershey’s and McDonald’s have all funded The American Society for Nutrition and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a lobby group which has been criticised by medical professionals.

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