Coca-cola, exercise & conflicts

The last couple of weeks have seen Coca-Cola in the news quite a bit. Coca-Cola has been having a tough time recently. This summer’s business news reported that revenues for the past year (2014) were down $2 billion from 2012 figures (although what’s a couple of billion when you’re still getting $46 billion?!)

The exposé

It looks like the NY Times was the first newspaper to break the latest story. Anahad O’Connor was the journalist who reported that Coca-Cola was funding ‘scientists’ to reiterate the message to focus on exercise, and not calorie intake, in the war on obesity.

One of the tools in this collaboration is a new organisation called the Global Energy Balance Network, which has the mission “healthier living through the science of energy balance.” Their vision is a world in health energy balance. For this, read ‘a world in which Coca-Cola sales stop falling, but human beings get off their lazy backsides to burn off the calories in those cans of Coca-Cola’. How they explain the fact that calorie-free, diet drinks are associated with long term weight gain/waist increase, I know not.

When asked why the web site was registered to Coca-Cola, the President of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) replied that the group’s members didn’t know how to register a web site. That is probably the scientific equivalent of a child being caught with their hand in the cookie jar saying “it wasn’t me”! Even the GEBN site admits: “GEBN has received support from… blah, blah, blah… and an unrestricted gift from The Coca-Cola Company”. How kind of Coca-Cola to help these ‘scientists’ with their web site and to give them unrestricted funds at the same time.

The four key names listed on the GEBN website are James Hill; Steven Blair; Gregory Hand and John Peters. Shame on all of them for being industry whores (no – that’s not too strong a word), while trying to masquerade as scientists. The NY Times discovered that Coca-Cola donated $1.5 million in 2014 to launch the GEBN organisation. It can’t cost much to run a web site that Coke set up, so I wonder how much of the unrestricted funding is personally enjoyed by these four puppets? Anahad O’Connor further discovered that Coca-Cola provided approximately $4 million in funding to two of the GEBN founding members: Steven Blair and Gregory Hand. Coca-Cola clearly chooses its targets well, as Steven Blair’s work has formed much of the basis of US federal guidelines on physical activity.

Blair also got a ‘money-can’t-buy’ reward from Coca-Cola. He was invited to carry the Olympic torch at London 2012. (Am I the only one wondering if Blair is just too darn lazy, or has he been having too much of his sponsor’s produce?!)

Coca-Cola’s relationships

Coca-Cola’s relationships with obesity and health organisations are widespread. They are a premier sponsor of the American Dietetic Association. This is additionally worrying in America as dietitians have a legislated monopoly on giving dietary advice – check out their other sponsors in case you ever wondered where American official dietary advice comes from.

Coca-Cola is a sustaining member of the British Nutrition Foundation. The National Obesity Forum “was secretly paid £50,000 by Coca-Cola to promote low-calorie sweeteners”. The Association for the Study of Obesity has received Coca-Cola funding in the past.

The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) describes itself as “a nonprofit, worldwide organization whose mission is to provide science that improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment”. ILSI receives its funding from its industry members, governments, and foundations. The president of the ILSI is Rhona Applebaum representing The Coca-Cola company USA.

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recently published a report on carbohydrates and health. As this blog pointed out at the time, the chair of this working group is Professor Ian MacDonald, and his research interests include nutritional and metabolic aspects of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. An excellent candidate for chair you would think, except that the SACN 2008 annual report lists Professor MacDonald’s declared interests as Mars Europe and Coca-Cola Europe.

The Olympics have long been a wonderful platform for Coca-Cola to promote their products to a global audience, as one of the official sponsors of the games. Coca-Cola’s association with sport and slim, athletic looking people, reinforces their desired message – drink Coca-Cola, exercise and you won’t get fat. As Coca-Cola says on its website, they are “proud to be the longest continuous corporate partner of the Olympic Games” – an involvement that dates back to the Amsterdam games of 1928.

Even the World Health Organisation is not immune. They were ‘outed’ in 2012 as a recipient of Coca-Cola’s profit.

And finally, the UK government promotes Coca-Cola as role model healthy eating. A red can of cola is prominently featured on the Eatbadly plate.

The defence

James Hill, President of the Global Energy Balance Network hit back by saying: “Funding from the Coca-Cola Company will help build the infrastructure for an international consortium of scientists and representatives from a variety of sectors dedicated to battling obesity. The food, physical fitness, healthcare and other industries all must play a role in the solution.”

I disagree. We will never solve the obesity epidemic by thinking that fake food can help. Fake food is the problem, not the solution. We finally made progress in the tobacco war, not by working with the cigarette companies, but by doing everything we could to legislate against them.

I found the Coca-Cola response far more honest (although ‘feet’ and ‘shooting in them’ came to mind). Dr. Ed Hays, Chief Technical Officer of The Coca-Cola Company wrote a statement to set the record straight. The key words of interest in this statement are these ones: “Our business strategy is for more people to enjoy our products more often…”

At last, something with which I agree. Coca-Cola is in business to make money; to maximize returns to shareholders. It is not Coca-Cola’s job to resolve the obesity epidemic. Never has been; never will be. In the fight against the obesity epidemic, Coca-Cola is the enemy, not a private army. We know this. Coca-Cola knows this. Their response to this unfortunate truth is to try to keep their enemies closer still. We need to keep ours as far away from our citizens as possible.

29 thoughts on “Coca-cola, exercise & conflicts

  • avatar
    September 30, 2015 at 9:42 pm
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    Zoe, it’s not easy to be a rational dietician.

    Jennifer Elliot is an experienced dietitian in Australia who has been sacked by her local health district for advocating a low carb diet to her diabetic patients. She was first de-registered by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), so she couldn’t practice.

    Elliot became interested in a low carb approach after problems with her daughter’s health and weight. Help from a doctor led to a diagnosis of insulin resistance. Elliot studied the subject and later wrote a book ‘Baby Boomers, Bellies and Blood Sugars’.

    Elliot’s rational but non-standard advice has clearly made her enemies. In a world of largely compliant and unthinking dietitians who happily tell diabetics to eat a ‘balanced’ diet of 40 – 65% carbs, she stood out. On her website, she even said she was embarrassed to be a dietitian. She’s far from the first to say that. Sure enough a fine upstanding dietitian made a formal complaint about Elliot’s low carb advice to the DAA and her employer then stated:

    “Nutritional advice to clients must not include a low carbohydrate diet. Jennifer will be advised on the information that she may provide to clients…. ”

    In Elliot’s words: “Can you imagine having to tell a client with diabetes, who has lowered his BGLs, lost weight and come off all diabetes medications by reducing his carb intake, that he now has to start eating more carbs because SNSW Health says so!?”

    After the DAA de-registered her, Elliot was sacked. The fuss that followed had the DAA running for cover and claiming that her low carb advice was not the reason for her sacking, but there were other unstated “Far deeper issues.” This is a familiar tactic seen in many big organisations, particularly the NHS. When they can’t justify a bad decision, they blacken the name of the person you’ve already wronged. The dietitian’s letter of complaint is clearly about Elliot’s advice.

    So, a caring dietitian who is helping people is thrown on the scrapheap to salve the wounded pride of the DAA and the New South Wales health service. That should quieten any dissent in the ranks, but where does it leave Australian diabetics? More drugs and amputations, I suppose. The only people who gain from this stupidity are manufacturers of drugs and artificial limbs.

    Jennifer Elliot’s website is babyboomersandbellies.com

    I’ve written an e-mail to the New South Wales Minister for Health asking for an inquiry into the DAA’s conduct. I’m sure Jennifer Elliot would appreciate your support.

    The Credit Suisse report states that our health systems are years behind the science and this is another unwelcome example (page 51).

    Reply
    • avatar
      October 1, 2015 at 8:30 am
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      Hi Stephen – Jennifer & I have been in touch for a while and she’s getting support from many sources. The trouble is – we’re all up against intransigence and the Aussy authorities are as unlikely to change as the English any time soon. I love the Credit Suisse view of health authorities. I have come to the conclusion that they will be the last to change. This needs to be a bottom up revolution of the intelligent and open minded. That’s why they’ll be last! ;-)

      Keep fighting :-)
      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply
      • avatar
        October 1, 2015 at 8:51 pm
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        Zoe, the way the DAA has behaved seems to be without any proper procedure. Surely this is legally challengeable? They’ve effectively deprived someone of their living and that can’t just be arbitrary and without challenge.

        Since they are saying that the low carb advice wasn’t why they de-registered Jennifer, what is the excuse?

        Reply
        • avatar
          October 2, 2015 at 9:13 am
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          I suggested going the employment law/unfair dismissal route. Better still – set up The Independent Dietitians Association of Australia! One not sponsored by the who’s who of the fake food industry…

          Reply
  • avatar
    September 30, 2015 at 9:42 pm
    Permalink

    Zoe, it’s not easy to be a rational dietician.

    Jennifer Elliot is an experienced dietitian in Australia who has been sacked by her local health district for advocating a low carb diet to her diabetic patients. She was first de-registered by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), so she couldn’t practice.

    Elliot became interested in a low carb approach after problems with her daughter’s health and weight. Help from a doctor led to a diagnosis of insulin resistance. Elliot studied the subject and later wrote a book ‘Baby Boomers, Bellies and Blood Sugars’.

    Elliot’s rational but non-standard advice has clearly made her enemies. In a world of largely compliant and unthinking dietitians who happily tell diabetics to eat a ‘balanced’ diet of 40 – 65% carbs, she stood out. On her website, she even said she was embarrassed to be a dietitian. She’s far from the first to say that. Sure enough a fine upstanding dietitian made a formal complaint about Elliot’s low carb advice to the DAA and her employer then stated:

    “Nutritional advice to clients must not include a low carbohydrate diet. Jennifer will be advised on the information that she may provide to clients…. ”

    In Elliot’s words: “Can you imagine having to tell a client with diabetes, who has lowered his BGLs, lost weight and come off all diabetes medications by reducing his carb intake, that he now has to start eating more carbs because SNSW Health says so!?”

    After the DAA de-registered her, Elliot was sacked. The fuss that followed had the DAA running for cover and claiming that her low carb advice was not the reason for her sacking, but there were other unstated “Far deeper issues.” This is a familiar tactic seen in many big organisations, particularly the NHS. When they can’t justify a bad decision, they blacken the name of the person you’ve already wronged. The dietitian’s letter of complaint is clearly about Elliot’s advice.

    So, a caring dietitian who is helping people is thrown on the scrapheap to salve the wounded pride of the DAA and the New South Wales health service. That should quieten any dissent in the ranks, but where does it leave Australian diabetics? More drugs and amputations, I suppose. The only people who gain from this stupidity are manufacturers of drugs and artificial limbs.

    Jennifer Elliot’s website is babyboomersandbellies.com

    I’ve written an e-mail to the New South Wales Minister for Health asking for an inquiry into the DAA’s conduct. I’m sure Jennifer Elliot would appreciate your support.

    The Credit Suisse report states that our health systems are years behind the science and this is another unwelcome example (page 51).

    Reply
  • avatar
    September 23, 2015 at 8:30 am
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    Shocking about the funding sources, but not surprising, sadly; very interesting article, thanks, and interesting comments too. I recently qualified as a nutritionist but not, for various reasons, as a dietican – one reason is their appalling promotion of the LFHC lifestyle, and I refuse to be party to that and have to toe the line.

    When I started sending in assignments using course materials to answer the ‘correctly’ and then adding my own, detailed rebuffals and ‘different truths’, I expected to be marked down – happily the opposite was true and I received distinctions throughout and in the exams. I very much doubt the course materials will be updated, but it is cheering I was able to adopt and show a different approach and not be penalised for it.

    Reply
    • avatar
      September 21, 2015 at 7:08 pm
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      Hi Stephen – many thanks for this – my inbox has clogged up with it! Awesome :-)

      Reply
  • avatar
    September 18, 2015 at 7:58 am
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    What do you think of the metabolic typing diet by William Walcott?

    Reply
  • avatar
    September 7, 2015 at 8:13 pm
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    I was educated as a Registered Dietitian and have spent a lot of time and effort to reeducate myself contrary to the curricula endorsed by the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (aka AND formerly known as the American Dietetics Association). Please know that there are many of us out there that do not agree with the tactics, alliances, and messages put out by the AND that have retracted our memberships with that and other like minded organizations. We endorse and promote the Eat Healthy Fats, Eliminate the Simple Carbs, Just Eat Real Food message with our clients every day.

    Reply
    • avatar
      September 8, 2015 at 8:35 pm
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      Well said, Lisa. But if you resigned your membership can you still practice? Doesn’t the ‘Association’ have a monopoly on dietary advice?

      Reply
      • avatar
        September 8, 2015 at 9:01 pm
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        Hi Stephen & Lisa – I thought the same. I’ve been privately contacted by a few dietitians/dieticians (US/UK) who are in the situation of not wanting to follow the ADA/BDA advice but will get thrown out (or whatever the process is) if they do…
        Best wishes – Zoe

        Reply
  • avatar
    August 31, 2015 at 11:02 pm
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    The World Health Organization recommends that we eat no more than 25 grams added sugar per day- (I think this is way too much still)- but 1 can of coke has 35 grams of sugar, so it’s already over the limit. So how do they reconcile that? They’re focusing on obesity only, not taking into consideration any of the metabolic effects of drinking their product. Thin people get diabetes too; they can also get fatty liver, heart disease, cancer, or any other metabolic disease. Exercising profusely will not make one immune to cavities either. I think this is all just distraction, a “smoke and mirrors” of sorts, to try to confuse people into thinking it’s okay in moderation. Of course, it’s a backlash, as many people (including Zoe) are “calling them out”, informing people about the damaging effects of soda. I think it’s wonderful that coke consumption appears to be declining. I hope it continues that way!

    Reply
  • avatar
    August 31, 2015 at 6:22 pm
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    Hello Zoe,
    I am a former Olympic Marathon medal winner who agrees that exercise will not reduce fat (unless you run the 100 miles per week I used to do).
    I am also a recently retired Community Pharmacist who got fed up with giving drugs to so many people who never got better. After reading a lot of Tim Noakes’ work I now know why. I also feel I should have been able to work it out for myself but the two biggest influences on my life, the running community and the NHS, are both adamant that high carb diets are the way to go.
    I have a big idea to bring LCHF into the forefront and demonstrate its benefits. However, I will need help to get past entrenched HCLF ideas. I am hoping you can help me. I do not want to explain on it on here – could you email me and let me explain what I am planning and how I think you could help.
    Best wishes, Charlie Spedding

    Reply
  • avatar
    August 30, 2015 at 8:32 am
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    Samuel, the reason she will no engage with you is that she’s conflicted by what’s happened to you and her expectation. Cognitive dissonance is what it’s called, but also called, more colourfully, having her knickers in a twist.
    Sometimes people get over that and then they are on the scientific road.

    Reply
  • avatar
    August 29, 2015 at 1:56 pm
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    Occasionally I talk to the dietitian at the Kaiser HMO of which I am a member. I have been eating LCHF for the past three years to improve my lipid profile. 8 months ago I went very LC/ketogenic. It was an experiment (my BMI is 22). I wanted to see the effect on athletic performance among other things. As far as the lipids were concerned the type B LDL-P dropped below the measurement threshold, and the HDL-C shot up another 20 mg/dL to 110. All other parameters improved as well. Of course whether this has anything to do with CHD and my mortality remains to be seen. However, I mentioned this to the dietitian and offered to show her my NMR lipid profile and she was not interested. In fact, she does not answer my emails now.

    Apparently if you eat real food, neither the doctors nor the dietitians want to even associate with you. And to add insult to injury if you do the exact opposite of what they recommend and get huge, persistent positive results they definitely do not want to talk to you. Obviously I do not understand the financial structure of Kaiser. You can’t explain this with science.

    Reply
    • avatar
      August 30, 2015 at 8:08 am
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      Really interesting comment Samuel – many thanks for sharing this!
      Best wishes – Zoe

      Reply
    • avatar
      August 30, 2015 at 5:13 pm
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      Yup, I’ve had exactly the same response. “We don’t need to discuss your diet” is what I got from my nurse, sitting in an office filled with posters about “Eating less fat”

      Reply
      • avatar
        September 8, 2015 at 8:55 pm
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        Jessica, I had a long talk with a nurse this morning and I tried to explain the evidence about how disastrous the high carb diet has been. He was utterly perplexed and stuck rigidly to the mantra that people are fat because they don’t exercise enough. I countered that exercise is great but close to irrelevant to weight control. I pointed out that the NHS still told diabetics to eat a high carb diet and asked him to explain that. We did better a century ago and it’s inexcusable. He looked perplexed and said he’d look into it.

        I pointed out that carbs (glucose) made people feel hungry whilst fat satiated appetite. Later in the day I reminded myself of the NHS guidelines and they are worse than I remembered. Fat is always put in the same category as sugar and the only fats endorsed are artificial ‘healthy’ vegetable oils that Nina Teicholz warns against.

        This man was a senior nurse and trainer. It’s scary. I wonder how bad it has to get before the vested interested of Coke and others are brushed aside? ‘Whores’ and ‘puppets’ are strong terms – and entirely justified.

        Excellent article, Zoe.

        Reply
    • avatar
      September 3, 2015 at 1:24 am
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      To be fair, I’d probably have a similar reaction when I realized I was being put out of a job as well. ;-)

      The beauty of dietetics is that there isn’t anything to it that can’t be learned (and learned better) simply by falling down internet rabbit holes for a couple of days.

      Reply
    • avatar
      September 4, 2015 at 4:18 pm
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      Me too!

      The NHS dietician’s response to the fact that my lipids and BP (and as I subsequently found my BG) were getting worse after folllowing her recommendations, plus I gained 15 kg, were that I was “obviously” not complying with her ultra low fat diet.

      When I did pretty much the exact opposite, my BG fell into normal range, my BP improved, my HDL DOUBLED and my trigs fell to 1/10 of what they were. Oh and I rapidly lost all the weight and regained my energy.

      My actual GP was pleased with the outcomes but not the way I achieved them. Others on the staff have decided that the best way to deal with me is to refuse me further tests, and even attempt to have me removed from their lists. I’ve settled somewhere between low carb, paleo and what my gran used to eat back in the day when there WERE no “epidemics” of obesity and metabolic disease, yet this is now considered to be completely unacceptable.

      “Money doesn’t talk, it swears” – Bob Dylan, 50 years ago

      Reply
  • avatar
    August 27, 2015 at 7:46 pm
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    I was saddened to see Dr Blair’s affiliation with Coke because his department has put out excellent, skeptical research criticizing the government’s nutritional data (NHANES). If not low-carb advocacy, showing the shoddy state of nutrition research as a whole is a valuable service to us. But now their credibility is shot. Shameful. :(

    Reply
  • avatar
    August 27, 2015 at 5:26 pm
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    One may or may not believe that carbon dioxide is warming the planet to a dangerous degree. But for Coca-Cola to spend millions on climate-change campaigns, which it does quite showily, is a nonsense. The company exists to produce and sell as much as CO2 as possible. Dr Hays admits this (above). Coca-Cola has a history of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Its new website is typical.

    Reply
    • avatar
      August 27, 2015 at 5:29 pm
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      Many thanks for this Olly – I didn’t know they were doing climate change ‘aren’t we fab’ stuff too!

      Reply

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