The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Coca-Cola defends obesity research

Critics say advice suggests exercise can offset bad diet.

- By Leon Stafford lstafford@ajc.com

Coca-Cola and a research organizati­on it supports financiall­y say they are not pushing exercise to tackle America’s obesity epidemic in order to distract from the effects of sugary drinks,

Coca-Cola and a research organizati­on the beverage giant supports financiall­y say they are not pushing exercise to tackle America’s obesity epidemic in order to distract from the effects of sugary drinks.

A Sunday New York Times story called into question Coke’s ties to the Global Energy Balance Network, a group focusing on “the science of energy balance” to address obesity.

The group disputes whether sugary drinks and fast-food are a primary cause of rising obesity among Americans. Health advocates criticize the group, saying it suggests consumers can offset a bad diet with exercise.

Ed Hays, Coke’s chief technical officer, called the Times story inaccurate and said Coke funds GEBN “because their type of research is critical to finding solutions to the global obesity crisis.

“At Coke, we believe that a balanced diet and regular exercise are two key ingredient­s for a healthy lifestyle and that is reflected in both our longterm and short-term business actions,” he said in a memo. The company did not directly respond in time for an earlier AJC story on the Times report.

GEBN president James Hill said Coke’s funding, which he described as a $1 million gift, will help build an internatio­nal consortium of scientists and representa­tives from a variety of sectors dedicated to battling obesity.

“The problem does not have a single cause and cannot be addressed by singling out only one of those factors in the solution,” said Hill, who said diet is important as is exercise. Critics are not swayed. “They set up scientists to look like they are independen­t but they’re not,” Gary Ruskin, co-founder of consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know, said Monday.

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