National Commentary

Coca Cola Funds Quack Science


Capitalism works well when it is highly regulated. However, it can become “crapitalism” when the drive to make money comes at a great cost to the public good.

One prime example of “crapitalism” is the way the sugar industry hawks its addictive and harmful products. We should begin to think of the sugar industry as the equivalent of cocaine dealers. This industry had the good sense to realize that if you put the drugs directly into the food, rather than up a client’s nose, the public would confuse the poison with real food.

An analysis published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday found that 75 percent of men and 67 percent of women ages 25 and older are now overweight or obese. That’s a startling shift from 20 years ago when 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women were fat.

Clearly, much of this has to do with the sugar industry – particularly soda companies, which are a primary delivery system for the dangerous junk.

A New York Times story points out that the soda industry is alarmed because soft drink consumption is down 25% at a tine when there are   increased efforts to tax sugary drinks.

In response to this “crisis”, Coca Cola is funding a fake quack science group called the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN). This Astroturf organization was created with Coke’s money to promote the false idea that drinking coke doesn’t make one fat – it is mostly the result of no exercise.

Yes, there is merit to working out, but most people don’t realize that they would have to walk 3 miles to burn off one can of coke. If they drank soda throughout the day, they’d have to run a daily marathon to stay fit.

The GEBN is trying to cloud the issue by downplaying the effect of poor eating habits:

“Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much,’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on,” the group’s vice president, Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist, says in a recent video announcing the new organization. “And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that, in fact, is the cause.”

Yeah, food has nothing to do with weight gain. I guess that people in countries with famines are thin because they are spending too much time on the stair master.

The New York Times story points out that studies backed by the food and beverage industry are five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies whose authors reported no financial conflicts.

They offer the example of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, which announced last week the findings of a study on exercise in children that determined that lack of fitness “is the biggest predictor of childhood obesity around the world.” The press statement included a disclosure: “This research was funded by The Coca-Cola Company.”

It is not surprising that some researchers are willing to sell out, considering the substantial money Coke provides. They spent $1.5 million to help launch the Global Energy Balance Network.  Since 2008, the company has also provided close to $4 million in funding for various projects to two of the organization’s founding members: Dr. Steven Blair, a professor at the University of South Carolina and Gregory A. Hand, dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health.

The researchers claim that Coke isn’t calling the shots – but their denial falls as flat as a month old bottle of stale soda. Records show that the Global Energy Balance Network website,, is registered to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, and the company is also listed as the site’s administrator.

Dr. Blair and other researchers tied to the bogus organization unconvincingly claim that since they are transparent about the source of the money, they have done nothing wrong. But the Times points out that as of last week, the group’s Twitter and Facebook pages made no mention of Coca-Cola’s financial support (until they were questioned about the sleazy omission.)

“If we are out there saying it’s all about physical activity and it’s not about food, then we deserve criticism,” one of the shill researchers said. “But I think we haven’t done that.”

However, the Times reported that a news release on its website, contradicted this disingenuous assertion.

“The media tends to blame the obesity epidemic on our poor eating habits,” one media release declared. “But are those french fries really the culprit? Dr. Steve Blair explains that you shouldn’t believe everything you see on TV.”

This is a stunning example of “crapitalism,” where the desire to peddle French fries and sodas for a profit are elevated above the health and well-being of our children.


Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”