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August 12, 2015

My kids have a book about a mouse who goes to school with a purple plastic purse.  At least I think it’s a mouse.  She goes on various adventures and at one point her school teacher says: “Wow.  That’s about all I can say.”

He might have been talking about Coca-Cola instead of the antics of a preternaturally verbal prepubescent rodent.  Actually they might be the same thing.  As Anahad O’Connor reports in the New York Times, Coke is having a “Wow” moment.

Ever heard of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN)?  No, it is not a climate change organization or a fossil fuel advocate.  It is Coke’s new non-profit, and it promotes the argument that exercise is more important in weight management than diet.  It is a calorie, or Energy Balance issue.  On a global scale, I guess.  As GEBN says, according to O’Connor “Strong evidence suggests that the key to preventing weight gain is not reducing food intake, but maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more calories.”   That strong evidence? Two research papers, both funded by Coca-Cola.

OK, fine.  Coke is a grown-up company.  It can say whatever drivel it wants, and woe to the poor slobs who believe it.  The real rats in this case are the scientists who are going along with this nonsense.  They are, in no particular order:

Dr. Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist, professor at the University of South Carolina, and vice-president of GEBN.

Dr. Gregory A. Hand, dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health.

Dr. James O. Hill, professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, founder of the National Weight Control Registry, and the president of GEBN.

Here is what Coke has done: GEBN, supposedly an organization tasked with  informing the public about the real science of weight management, was the brainchild of Coke, is funded by Coke, the website is registered to Coke, and Coke is the site’s administrator.  Coke has spent $1.5 million on GEBN, and Drs. Blair and Hand have received $4 million in research funding from Coke.  Dr. Hill’s institution, the University of Colorado, received an unrestricted gift of $1 million from Coke to the University of Colorado Foundation.

But the researchers are still in charge of course.  Here is O’Connor in the NYT piece, quoting Rhona Applebaum, chief scientific officer of Coke:

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.

As Dr. Hill says so eloquently:

They’re not running the show.  We’re running the show.

Uh huh.  Since we’re bull$&*ing, let’s hear from Dr. Blair, whose research on exercise has been the basis for many government recommendations:

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, sugary drinks and so on.  And there’s virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.

That is about $3.5 million worth of bull$&*.

There’s plenty of evidence, in large studies NOT funded by Coca-Cola, that while exercise is helpful, diet is much more important. Read Aaron E Carroll from June of this year for some of this research (  There’s the Population Health Metrics finding that while physical activity has, in general increased, so has the obesity rate.  There’s the New England Journal report that increases in protein and decreases in glycemic index led to sustainable weight loss.  Consider the research that casts doubt on the association between fat mass and exercise in children.  How about the study that showed that the physical activity of people in developing and industrialized countries was about the same, but the obesity rate was much higher in industrialized countries.  Or the consistent observation that regular exercise by itself in mild to moderate amounts results in modest weight loss or even in weight gain.

I could go on and on.  But, instead, let me just say…  Wow.


From → Healthcare

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