Coke, CSPI, Truth, and Lies

In the autumn of 2012, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) created a 3:48 video (watchable from this page) whose medium is animation interspersed with information bytes, accompanied by a bouncy love song to sugar. (A transcript of the complete soundtrack is available but it may not be accurate.)

A polar bear family suffers the consequences of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, including the surgical removal of a foot, and a placard informs us that diabetes is the cause of more than 60,000 amputations every year. Ultimately, the bears go to the edge of the ice floe and pour their remaining supply of soda into the ocean.

Musically, the lyrics change from satirical to inspirational:

Oh, the power’s in your hands
You can have it all
You can live a long long time
The power’s in your paw.

But then, confusingly, the song reprises a former verse, snuggling up to sugar, a fact that seems to have escaped general notice. Or maybe it didn’t, and the confusing aural message explains why the video didn’t seem to gain much traction as a cultural artifact.

The Real Bears website quotes several statements from Coca-Cola and the American Beverage Association, and calls out those institutions by unabashedly labeling the statements as LIES. Dedicated truth-seekers may follow a link to another page where the scientific studies refuting those lies are cited.

Shots fired

Coke responded that “Real Bears” was irresponsible and would not help the public understand “energy balance,” which is beverage industry code for “Consumers don’t exercise enough, and any weight gain is totally their own fault.”

Early in 2013, Coke produced a two-minute propaganda video, “Coming Together,” which the formidable Marion Nestle described as an act of chutzpah and desperation. In the ad, the Coke corporation explained about what a good guy it is, for putting the calorie count on bottles and cans, including the new, smaller ones. Oh, and for introducing even more zero-calorie and low-calorie beverage choices.

A lot of brain programming can take place within 120 seconds, and the underlying message of the work was recognized by critics as a soft-pedaled but confident reprimand delivered to fizzy beverage consumers, who really ought to exercise more. CSPI retaliated by calling the Coke ad “disingenuous corporate gobbledygook” worthy only of “guffaws, incredulity, and general ridicule,” about which Childhood Obesity News will have more to say.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Unhappy Truth about Soda,”, undated
Source: “Read The Real Bears Transcription,”, undated
Source: “Coca-Cola fights obesity? Oh, please,”, 01/16/13
Source: “Coca-Cola Obesity Ad Translated from Cokespeak to English,”, 01/25/13
Enjoy coca-cola
Photo credit: B. Rosen via Visualhunt/CC BY-ND

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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