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Soda Causes Obesity? Nah, Say Coke-Funded Scientists

NYT: Coke funding nonprofit that promotes exercise rather than calorie cutting
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2015 11:54 AM CDT

(Newser) – The key to maintaining a healthy weight isn't limiting calories, but rather, increasing exercise, according to a group of scientists who are, unsurprisingly, getting support from the world's largest soda company. The New York Times reports Coca-Cola donated $1.5 million last year to start nonprofit Global Energy Balance Network, which promotes the idea that Americans are too concerned with what they put in their mouths and not enough with what they do with their bodies. That's on top of $4 million in funding Coke has given to the group's founders since 2008. "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," one of those founders, exercise scientist Steven Blair, says in a video. "And there's really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause."

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Blair argues GEBN is independent of Coke, though its website—dubbed "the voice of science"—is registered to Coke's Atlanta headquarters and Coke is listed as a site administrator. Many of the group's ideas about exercise and obesity are also backed by Coke-funded studies. The GEBN "is nothing but a front group for Coca-Cola," which is trying to "confuse the science and deflect attention from dietary intake," says a professor. Many other health experts argue Coke is downplaying the link between sugary drinks and fatal health problems and trying to convince people that exercise will make up for a poor diet. "Coca-Cola's sales are slipping, and there's this huge political and public backlash against soda," says a public health lawyer. "They're desperate to stop the bleeding." Coke says researchers should "share their own views and scientific findings, regardless of the outcome," and be "open about our funding." (Read more Coca-Cola stories.)

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