American beverage giant Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugar-sweetened beverages, has reportedly teamed up with a group of prominent scientists to promote — through medical journals, conferences, and social media — the idea that exercise is vastly more important to a healthy weight than calorie consumption.
To that end, Coca-Cola has provided “financial and logistical support” to a newly established nonprofit called the Global Energy Balance Network, “which promotes the argument that weight-conscious Americans are overly fixated on how much they eat and drink while not paying enough attention to exercise,” according to The New York Times.
In a recent video announcement, the network’s vice president cautioned, “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.”
Many public health advocates and medical professionals say, however, that the message is deeply misleading, and that Coke is trying to minimize the established link between the consumption of SSBs (sugar-sweetened beverages) and diseases like obesity and diabetes.
Meanwhile, Americans have also gotten increasingly smart about their soda intake, as evidenced by a consistent decline in soda sales over the last several years. The American Beverage Association, bristling against the accusation that SSBs can contribute to a poor diet, recently sued the entire city of San Francisco for deciding to institute mandatory warning labels on advertisements for sugary beverages.
“Coca-Cola’s sales are slipping, and there’s this huge political and public backlash against soda, with every major city trying to do something to curb consumption,” Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, told the Times. “This is a direct response to the ways that the company is losing. They’re desperate to stop the bleeding.”