Obesity Research Group Funded by Coca-Cola Shuts Down After Months of Heavy Criticism

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The Global Energy Balance Network has shut down due to lack of funding after it returned $1 million provided by Coca-Cola
Obesity Research Group Funded by Coca-Cola Shuts Down After Months of Heavy Criticism

The Global Energy Balance Network, established with financial support from Coca-Cola, promised to provide obesity research that was “very specific to Coke’s interests.”

The Global Energy Balance Network — a network of scientists and medical professionals whose goal was to promote research indicating that one’s diet was relatively unimportant in controlling weight and overall health — has announced that it will shut down, following months of criticism regarding its controversial ideology and its relationship with its principal financier, Coca-Cola.

In the weeks after the introduction of the Global Energy Balance Network, public health officials accused Coca-Cola of funding an organization created solely to argue against evidence of soda’s role in obesity, though Coke said at the time that its financial support did not come with strings.

In a video introducing GEBN, meanwhile, the network’s president said, “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. And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

Then, in November, The Associated Press uncovered emails between Coke and GEBN, which promised the promotion of “energy research” that was “very specific to Coke interests.” Coke responded to the email discovery by announcing that its health and science officer, Rhona Applebaum, the main liaison for GEBN, would retire and her role would not be filled.

The University of Colorado School of Medicine, where GEBN was founded, also announced that it would return $1 million out of a $1.5 million gift from Coca-Cola because “the funding source has distracted attention from its worthwhile goal.”

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Then, on Monday, November 30, the Global Energy Balance Network posted a short statement on its website to explain that it was “discontinuing operations due to resource limitations,” effective immediately.