Coca-Cola is funding “scientific” research that claims fighting obesity isn’t so much about cutting calories as it is exercising more. In other words, spend more time on the treadmill, but by all means keep drinking soda.
The New York Times reports that the soda giant donated $1.5 million to a non-profit organization called the Global Energy Balance Network—the focus of which is to prove that regular exercise, rather than reducing calories, is the most effective means of losing weight.
Since 2008, the company has also provided close to $4 million in funding for various projects to two of the organization’s founding members: Dr. Blair, a professor at the University of South Carolina whose research over the past 25 years has formed much of the basis of federal guidelines on physical activity, and Gregory A. Hand, dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health.
Until recently, the group’s website failed to mention that large amounts of funding were being donated by Coca-Cola. Food policy expert Marion Nestle called Global Energy Balance Network nothing more than a front group for the soda company. “Coca-Cola’s agenda here is very clear: Get these researchers to confuse the science and deflect attention from dietary intake,” she said to the Times.
And according to Barry M. Popkin, a professor of global nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this is similar to how the tobacco industry attempted to confuse the science that smoking causes cancer. Today, the food industry is commonly involved in scientific research and according to the Times, such funding can impact study findings:
A recent analysis of beverage studies, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, found that those funded by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the American Beverage Association and the sugar industry were five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies whose authors reported no financial conflicts.
This comes as Coca-Cola is struggling to bounce back, as sales for full calorie sodas continue to plummet, down 25 percent in the past two decades. Americans seem to have lost interest in sugar-sweetened beverages in the wake of a growing obesity epidemic. Today, 35 percent of Americans are considered obese.
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Image: Leo Hildalgo