Sugared drinks are associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, certain cancers and premature death (J Am Coll Cardiol, 2015;66(14):1615-1624). Yet Coca Cola has given more than 118 million dollars to prestigious health research institutions, athletic groups, disease foundations, cancer and diabetes organizations and university researchers over the last five years. These are not just charitable contributions; the company wants to encourage people to continue buying sugared drinks. They supported academic researchers and major medical groups including:
• The American Academy of Family Physicians – $3.6 million
• The American College of Cardiology – $3.2 million
• The American Academy of Pediatrics – nearly $3 million
• Brigham and Women’s Hospital – $1.2 million
• The American Cancer Society – $1.9 million
• The American Diabetes Association – $1.1 million
• The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – $1.7 million
and many more.
The Global Energy Balance Network
The Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) received $4 million in funding from Coca-Cola to conduct research projects. This organization promoted the idea that obesity can be prevented by exercising more and worrying less about cutting calories. Their website explained that sugared drinks are not a major factor in the epidemic of obesity in North America today. The website was registered to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, and the company was also listed as the site’s administrator. The organization was disbanded in 2015 (New York Times, December 1, 2015).
The three major officers in GEBN were respected academic researchers: Dr. Steven Blair was a professor at the University of South Carolina; Gregory A. Hand was Dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health, and James O. Hill was a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. The University of South Carolina disclosed that Dr. Blair had received more than $3.5 million in funding from Coke since 2008. Coca-Cola has provided Dr. Hand with $806,500 for an “energy flux” study in 2011 and $507,000 to establish GEBN. Dr. Hill was a co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry, a long-term study of people who have lost weight. In 2014, Coca-Cola gave $1 million to the University of Colorado Foundation and GEBN.
Harmful Effects of Sweetened Drinks
Evidence is accumulating that sugar-sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages and fruit juices are associated with increased risk for:
• Diabetes (British Medical Journal, 08/06/2015; Br J Nutr, Sep 14, 2014;112(5):725-34; Diabetologia, Jul, 2015;58(7):1474-83)
• Chronic kidney disease (Nephrology (Carlton), Dec, 2014;19(12):791-7)
• Cancer recurrence (PLoS, June 17, 2014)
• Heart attacks (Circulation, 2012;125:1735-41)
• Obesity (N Engl J Med, 2011 Jun 23;364(25):2392-404). The World Cancer Research Foundation has concluded that obesity is a major cancer risk factor, linked to about 20 percent of cancers of the breast, esophagus, colon, kidney, endometrium, pancreas, and gall bladder in the United States; see Being Overweight Increases Risk for Many Cancers
Diet and Exercise are Both Important
Scientists recruited 200 overweight, sedentary adults, put them on an aggressive exercise program and made no recommendations about changing their diets (Obesity, June, 2007;15(6):1496–1512). All participants were checked regularly to make sure that they exercised five to six hours a week. That is more than double the 2.5 hours/week recommended by U.S. federal guidelines. One year later, the men had lost an average of only 3.5 pounds, while the women lost just 2.5 pounds. They all were still overweight. This study and many others show that to lose weight you need to change your eating habits, even if you exercise.
Large companies are driven by their need for profits. We all remember how Big Tobacco paid doctors and celebrities to convince the public that it was healthful and glamorous to smoke. Now Big Sugar is using the same tactics to persuade people that their products are not responsible for our epidemics of obesity and diabetes. Seventy percent of North American adults are overweight and more than 40 percent are already diabetic or are headed that way. I recommend that you fight against the influence of Big Sugar. To combat obesity and diabetes:
• try to exercise every day,
• restrict sugared drinks and foods and eat a healthful diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and
• lose weight if you are overweight. I recommend using Intermittent Fasting