Coca-Cola is providing millions of dollars in funding for a non-profit group that argues weight-conscious Americans should be paying more attention to exercise and less attention to their diet, The New York Times reports.
“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,” says Steven N. Blair, vice president of the group, known as the Global Energy Balance Network, in a video. “And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”
Two universities that employ leaders of the Global Energy Balance Network told the Times that Coca-Cola had donated $1.5 million last year to start the organization, and that the company had provided close to $4 million in funding for other projects spearheaded by two members from the group.
Health experts are calling Coca-Cola’s motives into question, especially in a longstanding era of declining soda sales.
“The Global Energy Balance Network is nothing but a front group for Coca-Cola,” Marion Nestle, author of the book Soda Politics and a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, told the Times. “Coca-Cola’s agenda here is very clear: Get these researchers to confuse the science and deflect attention from dietary intake.”
This isn’t the first time Coca-Cola has tried to popularize the idea that its products are healthier than believed. In February, it was reported that fitness and nutrition experts wrote Coke-endorsed online pieces for American Hearth Month arguing that a mini-can of Coke could be a healthy treat. Last year, the American Beverage Association, which represents Coke and Pepsi, published findings of a study that suggested diet soda could aid in weight loss, a result that’s been refuted elsewhere.