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Riddle me this

[cat picture]

Paul Alper writes:

From Susan Perry’s article based on Paul Hacker’s BMJ article:

In 2015, the University of Colorado had to shut down its nonprofit Global Energy Balance Network after the organization was exposed as being essentially a “scientific” front for its funder, Coca-Cola. The University of Colorado School of Medicine returned the $1 million that the beverage company had provided to start the organization.

Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, told [Paul] Hacker that although the reporters at the obesity conferences were misled, they shouldn’t have been so gullible. They should have known, she said, that the industry was behind the events, given who was speaking at them.

Hacker’s BMJ article is at BMJ 2017; 357 doi: (Published 05 April 2017)

Damn. Coke is delicious; I hate to hear about this sort of thing. In an ideal world they’d just get some small but reasonable guaranteed rate of profit and could just produce the stuff for our pleasure without going and distorting our public health infrastructure.

I’m reminded of those interviews about advertising that Carrie McLaren did with schoolchildren. One kid asked: “Why does Michael Jordan need to advertise with McDonald’s? He’s famous enough already.”


  1. Ana says:

    You lot – might be the only that makes the notion of ‘Health’ a matter of public debate such as you write of it.

    [Attempted humour]

  2. Your (Andrew’s) late friend Seth Roberts turned me on to kombucha — and I’ve never looked back. Coke and other soft drinks pale in comparison. And kombucha is much healthier (my wife drinks it daily and swears that her long-standing digestive problems return only when she misses a few days). True, the store-bought stuff is expensive, but you can easily make kombucha yourself. I have three batches brewing in the kitchen right now.

  3. Dzhaughn says:

    Would you guarantee an similar profit for OK Soda? (

    Here is the stead-state of your ideal world.

    (For rookies: there were shared glasses on the top; you rinsed one in the right slot in a perfunctory manner, then filled it with a poor imitation of Kool-Aid on the left. I never saw one nearly this clean.)

  4. jrc says:

    For a more balanced insider view of things, the reporter could’ve also asked other Nutrition and Public Health experts like Dr. Hershey or Dr. Kraft. If he was really serious he would’ve at least emailed Prof. Ron McDonald.

  5. Paul Alper says:

    There are two fundamental truths in this world which help explain why Coca-Cola and the University of Colorado teamed up:

    1. Never spit into the wind.

    2. “Follow the money” which was first enunciated in the film (but does not appear in the book) “All the President’s Men.”

  6. Asher says:

    I don’t agree that the problem is the profit motive. Main issue is not the right of Coca Cola to present research favorable to their product, but the need for full disclosure of conflicts of sponsors and conflicts of interest.

    Coca Cola is not sold (anymore) as a remedy, and all they are trying to do is show that it is not really harmful, it’s not like it is being sold on the basis of the research they underwrite. Anyway, there is plenty of junk science on both sides of the soft drink debate and some of the research is defensive.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The article states “the company is using the new group to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared to what people consume.”

    Tell that to any serious athlete. Here’s what Olympic athletes consume on a regular basis. I swam in high school and college and regularly consumed much more than the 2,000 recommended calories without gaining weight. It’s all about striking the right balance. Cutting calories is certainly easier than maintaining an intense exercise regimen. Asher is correct, it’s the disclosure part that is important not that the message is clearly misleading.

    • Angus says:

      I often think this whenever people tell me that exercise isn’t that effective. My whole life I’ve eaten as much as I can, but stayed very active. I run about 30-40km a week and eat my share of McDonald’s and Coke. I’m sure I would eat above the recommended “in moderation” but it seems to balance out. Having said that though, I probably wouldn’t have chosen a part time job that requires me to run so much as a teenager if I was overweight. More likely I would have got a job at McDonald’s.

  8. Phil says:

    I think the claim that “exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared to what people consume” is misleading. My exercise regimen has a substantial influence on my weight, and although it’s possible that I am the only one in the world for which that is true, I wouldn’t count on it. I discussed this in a few posts on this blog, several years ago, such as this one. Most studies that have looked for a relationship between exercise and weight loss have only looked at low or medium exercise intensity. I think a better formulation would be “low- and medium-intensity exercise has only minimal impact on weight, at least in most people.”

    • Angus says:

      Coupled with the fact that it isn’t really safe for overweight people to start high intensity exercise right away. You should really introduce it as your fitness improves, when presumably you are closer to your goal weight. At which point it becomes harder and harder to lose more weight, right?
      So high intensity exercise is probably more useful to maintain a healthy weight than it is to rapidly drop weight.

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