The Center for Science in the Public Interest points out that Coca-Cola, whose products are not exactly heart healthy, is a strange partner for the NHLBI.
Are such partnerships a benign win-win? History suggests otherwise.
In 1984, Kellogg cooked up a partnership with the National Cancer Institute to put health claims for fiber on the boxes of All-Bran cereals. In doing so, Kellogg (and NCI) went around the FDA and undermined that agency’s control over health claims on food packages -- leading to problems that the agency is still struggling to fix.
Diet Coke teaming up with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to raise awareness for women’s heart health programs is laughable … if it weren't such a sad testimony to the cozy relationships between corporate giants and U.S. public health organizations
The irony here is that Coke is one of the main retailers of sugar in the U.S. and it is very clear that sugar, primarily in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which provides the most food calories in the U.S., is actually leading the charge for increasing heart disease.
Drinking diet soda has been clearly linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around your waist, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure, all of which can raise your risk of heart disease, not to mention diabetes.
Diet soda, like most all diet foods, also increases your chances of becoming obese, and we all know that obesity in turn raises your risk of heart disease!
And, again, this doesn’t even take into account Coca-Cola’s other mainstay product, regular Coke, which is loaded with high fructose corn syrup -- the major cause of the obesity epidemic.
Can You Say “Sell-Out”?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is the parent organization to NHLBI, is seen by many Americans as a group of neutral government experts who set out to provide the public with honest, reliable, unbiased health information.
In reality, NIH scientists have long been open to partnerships with the “enemy,” so long as the pay-off was lucrative enough. According to records, at least 530 government scientists at the NIH have taken fees, stock or stock options from biomedical companies in recent years.
Sad to say, but I’ve come to expect these kind of underhanded dealings when it comes to federal agencies … but I expected better of the Olympics.
Olympics Sells Out to Coke, McDonald’s
If you watched this year’s winter Olympics, you’ve surely seen the ads from companies like Coke and McDonald’s, both of which were among the most highly visible Olympic sponsors.
Now kids and adults alike have the pleasure of seeing two of the world’s biggest junk-food brands side-by-side with some of the world’s greatest athletes … and are left with the impression that to win Olympic Gold they need only grab a Big Mac and fries, and wash it down with a long swig of Coke.
It’s really incredible that Coke is the official “Beverage of Choice” for the Olympics, while McDonald’s is the “Restaurant of Choice.” You can rest assured that the U.S. would not have topped the world in total medals won if their athletes subsisted on a diet of Coke and McDonald’s!
McDonald’s has even been promoting shameless games encouraging people to guess how certain Olympic athletes eat their McNuggets, while running commercials showing athletes celebrating a victory with McDonald’s value meal!
For an event that prides itself on physical fitness and athletic greatness, what are they teaching the world’s children? Surely we can do better than this.
The Major Cause of the Obesity Epidemic
Getting back to Coca-Cola’s partnership with women’s heart health … it has to be pointed out that soda is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is actually the number one source of calories in the United States, and it is very clear that it is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic.
If you received most of your carbs from vegetables and fruits as most people did a century ago, you’d only consume about 15 grams per day -- a far cry from the 73 grams per day the typical person receives from their diets today. Sadly another 25% of people consume more than 130 grams of fructose per day.
It isn’t that fructose itself is bad -- it is the MASSIVE DOSES you’re exposed to that make it dangerous.
There are two reasons fructose is so damaging:
Your body metabolizes fructose in a much different way than glucose. The entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls on your liver.
People are consuming fructose in enormous quantities, which has made the negative effects much more profound.
The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which drives up blood pressure and causes gout.
And where as glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite, fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain’s communication with leptin. The result is overeating, weight gain and ultimately obesity.
If you’re obese, you’re also at an increased risk of heart disease, which is another glaring reason why Coca-Cola’s partnership with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute is so absurd.
I strongly recommend you keep your fructose consumption to below 25 grams per day, and you view some sample fructose contents in fruits here. There are about 40 grams of HFCS per can of soda, so if you drink one a day you’re already way over the limit.
And please don’t be fooled by the myth that diet soda is somehow better than regular. Drinking diet soda is clearly linked to obesity as well!
Keep Your Eyes Wide Open
Deceptive marketing practices, such as those being used by Diet Coke and McDonald’s, can lead you to subconsciously prefer certain foods. If you see enough Olympians with a Coke in hand, for instance, suddenly your daily habit may not seem so bad.
Children, of course, are especially vulnerable to these messages.
So please make an effort to seek out the ulterior motives that are present when health agencies join forces with junk food manufacturers. And, if you’re a parent or teacher, please take the time to explain the realities to your children as well.
We don’t need a generation of kids aspiring to become Olympic athletes by making Coke and McDonald’s their “foods of choice.” And we don’t need to set women up with the false knowledge that drinking Diet Coke is a smart choice for a healthy heart.
If you want REAL tips to keep your heart healthy, I’ve compiled many of them here -- and you'll notice that not one involves sipping on an artificially sweetened soda of any kind.