Coca-Cola Admits it Gave Millions to Fund “Scientific Research”

Hey, remember last year, when news broke that Coca-Cola created a propaganda group with a mission to fight obesity?

The sugary beverage giant bribed funded a group of scientists who are supposedly nutrition and weight loss experts and got them to say stupid things like Americans are too fixated on how much we eat and drink and don’t pay enough attention to exercise?

Coca-Cola’s “obesity research”group, called Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), shut down in December after months of pressure from public health authorities who said the group’s mission was to downplay the link between soft drinks and obesity. The group was characterized as an astroturfing organization, which means it was made to look like a grassroots mission, but it was actually designed to help nothing but Cola-Cola’s bottom line.

In a video announcing the organization, the group’s vice president, Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist, made the following outrageous statement:

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.

Whaaaat? Of COURSE there is evidence that the rising consumption of sugary drinks is a MAJOR contributor to the obesity crisis and is causing serious health issues. You know what else the evidence proves? It proves that Blair and his buddies at Coca-Cola are full o’bull.

To support the preposterous claims the group made, it posted two research papers on its website that “show” the key to preventing weight gain is not reducing food intake, but exercising more.

Both papers were funded by none other than…Coca-Cola.

When Coke’s involvement in the GEBN became known, the beverage behemoth claimed it took a hands-off approach to the group. But subsequently revealed emails showed that Coca-Cola was heavily involved in shaping the group’s message, likening it to “a political campaign, we will develop, deploy and evolve a powerful and multi-faceted strategy to counter radical organizations and their proponents.”

Blair and his fellow con men knew damn well that they were lying, and now, news has broken that Coca-Cola lied about exactly how much money the company has spent on health research and partnerships.

Last September, Coca-Cola claimed it spent $118.6 million on funding for scientific research and health and fitness programs made from 2010 to 2015. That included payments to health and fitness experts who mentioned its drinks in blog posts or columns. Yes, that is as appalling as it sounds…there are actual “experts” who are being bribed to say claiming Coke can be part of a healthful diet.

But, oops! The amount the company initially disclosed was wrong – it’s not $118.6 million, it’s actually $132.8 million. Coca-Cola says the updated amount includes additions but also removals of previously inaccurate entries.

The spending includes funding of programs for a wide variety of groups, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the National Park Foundation, a health fair for the National Organization for Mexican American Rights, the American Council for Fitness, and the American Diabetes Association.

The group’s president, James O. Hill, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, is one of the founders of The National Weight Control Registry. He’s published studies that show that people who are successful at losing weight and keeping it off consume – wait for it – a low calorie diet.

D. Hill has financial ties to Coca-Cola too. The company gave an “unrestricted monetary gift” of $1 million to the University of Colorado Foundation. In response to a request made under the Colorado Open Records Act, the university said that Coca-Cola had provided the money “for the purposes of funding” the Global Energy Balance Network.

Go figure.

Coca-Cola also gave $507,000 to the University of South Carolina for the Global Energy Balance Network, since one of the group’s leaders was a professor at that school. That money has not been returned, according to Coke’s website.

Oh, not only that…this happened a few days ago:

Dr. Jim Hill, who won accolades for building up the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center before it was revealed that an organization he led took large amounts of funding from the Coca-Cola Co., has resigned from the center on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.

For more background on this deceitful and nefarious story, please see our previous coverage: Coca-Cola: We’re Not Making You Fat, You’re Just Lazy!

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If you want to drink soda, by all means, please do. I’m not here to tell you what to do with your body.

But be wary of health claims that don’t make sense – especially those that are made by companies that are looking to profit from your decisions. I’m not saying that all research that is funded by industry or special interest groups is flawed or biased, but extra scrutiny is warranted. Ask yourself if the claims being made are consistent with what you already know. Find out if independently funded studies have produced similar results.

Don’t be fooled by official-looking studies authored by people with fancy credentials. Do some digging if a claim seems suspicious.

About the author

Lisa Egan

Lisa is a researcher and writer who lives in the outskirts of D.C. She has a BS in Health Science with a concentration in Nutrition. Lisa has worked as a personal trainer and nutritionist and is a certified hypnotherapist. She enjoys helping people learn about how to improve their health.

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