Coke’s Skeevy, Sleazy Ways

Childhood Obesity News discussed the discovery that the Coca-Cola Company secretly funded $120 million worth of research in a five-year period. They paid scientists and institutions to spread the idea that Energy Balance is king. The object was to convince the public, and health professionals who keep track of studies in their field, that reducing the consumption of soda is not the way to go. No, people should instead get busy and do enough exercise to burn off the sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) calories.

From the industry perspective, it is paramount to convince people that if they wind up getting fat, it’s their own fault. Their obesity has nothing to do with, for instance, an advertising campaign that touts SSBs as a safe form of basic essential hydration.

We recounted how two pastors have joined the landmark Praxis lawsuit which claims that, contrary to the industry-financed research, other evidence shows “a well-established link between soda consumption and obesity,” although admittedly the precise workings of that connection are yet well understood. As Caitlin Dewey reported:

A 20-year study of 120,000 adults, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011, found that people who drank an extra soda per day gained more weight over time than those who did not. Other large-scale studies have found that soda drinkers have a greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and gout.

But Coca-Cola Company has invested millions in research tailored to obfuscate and deny. It has created misleading and irrelevant advertising campaigns designed to confuse the public. And that’s only one aspect of the unrelenting attack on children and adults.

Coke is all over social media, and provides a livelihood for online writers whose principles are for sale. Dewey writes,

The company’s ads and its executives, as well as a number of compensated nutrition bloggers, have also advanced the argument that lack of exercise is primarily responsible for the obesity epidemic, and that the calories consumed in soda can be easily offset by increasing physical activity.

When the industry speaks of its explainers, apologists, allies and consultants, the term “health professional partner” seems to be employed pretty loosely, to the point where it comfortably embraces even a corporation’s lobbyists and publicists.

Major bone of contention

Conflicts of interest and calculated deception have been the hallmarks of the soda industry, and Coke isn’t the only problem here. As Gary Ruskin of the watchdog group U.S. Right to Know pointed out,

This raises questions not only about these Coke-funded studies, but also more generally about the accuracy of conflict of interest disclosures in other scientific studies funded by corporations.

In other words, Coke is not just a single anomalous bad apple, but an all-too-typical one, perfectly at home in a whole barrel full of rotten apples. The fear is that it’s not just Coke, but a wide universe of crooked corporations with hidden agendas and concealed influence polluting the whole body of scientific literature.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Lawsuit Alleges Coca-Cola, American Beverage Association Deceiving Public About Soda-Related Health Problems,”, 07/13/17
Source: “We’re losing more people to the sweets than to the streets’: Why two black pastors are suing Coca-Cola,”, 07/13/17
Source: “Did 24 Coke-Funded Studies on Childhood Obesity Fail to Disclose Coke’s Influence?,”, 12/11/17
Photo credit: William Clifford on Visualhunt/CC BY

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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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