In 2014, Coca-Cola reportedly donated $1.5 million to a new nonprofit organization, the Global Energy Balance Network, which reportedly wants Americans to worry less about what they drink and eat, and focus more on exercise.
The Global Energy Balance Network reportedly writes research papers, holds conferences and uses social media to spread its message.
According to The New York Times, Dr. Steven N. Blair, an exercise scientist and vice president of the Global Energy Balance Network, recently stated in a video for the group:
"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."
The Harvard T. Chan School Of Public Health advised skipping sugary drinks to reduce the chances of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Medical News Today reported on a study that found sugary drinks were linked to greater risks of obesity, which is a large risk factor in developing Type 2 diabetes. A study published by the American Heart Association also linked sugary drinks to obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
So why has the Coca-Cola company made such a huge investment in claims that may appear to be at odds with scientific studies?
Michele Simon, a public health lawyer, told The New York Times:
"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. This is a direct response to the ways that the company is losing. They’re desperate to stop the bleeding."
Who.is notes that the Global Energy Balance Network website, Debn.org, is registered by "The Coca-Cola Company" in "Atlanta." That registration could be changed to "private" as word spreads throughout the media.
Global Energy Balance Network president James O. Hill claimed Coca-Cola registered the site because the Global Energy Balance Network did not know how.
Registering a website is a simple process through website registrars such as GoDaddy and Network Solutions, which both have employees to walk you through.
“(Coca-Cola is) not running the show,” Hill insisted. “We’re running the show.”
Coca-Cola also gave $1 million to the University of Colorado Foundation in 2014. The university told The New York Times the money was “for the purposes of funding” the Global Energy Balance Network.
Hill is a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Coca-Cola said in a statement to The New York Times:
"We partner with some of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and physical activity. It’s important to us that the researchers we work with share their own views and scientific findings, regardless of the outcome, and are transparent and open about our funding."
Global Energy Balance Network's website did not mention Coca-Cola's funding until Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, of the University of Ottawa, asked the organization about it.
“As soon as we discovered that we didn’t have not only Coca-Cola but other funding sources on the website, we put it on there,” Blair stated. “Does that make us totally corrupt in everything we do?”
Marion Nestle, who wrote the book, "Soda Politics,” and is a professor at New York University, claims:
"The Global Energy Balance Network is nothing but a front group for Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola’s agenda here is very clear: Get these researchers to confuse the science and deflect attention from dietary intake."
Sources: Harvard T. Chan School Of Public Health, The New York Times, Medical News Today, American Heart Association, Who.is, Global Energy Balance Network / Image credit: Global Energy Balance Network Logo