By Dr. Mercola
A new Coca-Cola ad campaign that encourages people to come together to fight obesity is drawing fire from consumer advocates and obesity experts.1, 2
Coke says it's trying to make consumers more aware of the healthy choice beverages Coke makes; critics say Coke is simply doing damage control.
There can be no doubt that soda is one of the primary beverages responsible for skyrocketing obesity rates. As Dr. Sanjay Gupta told CNN:3
"...the scientific community has ...reached a consensus that soft drinks are the one food or beverage that's been demonstrated to cause weight gain and obesity. And if we're going to deal with this obesity epidemic, that's the place to start."
Granted, no one is forcing anyone to drink them, but there simply has not been enough public education about the dangers of excessive fructose consumption. In fact, the industry has fought tooth and nail to minimize or flat out deny these health dangers, very similar to the tobacco industry denying the risk of lung cancer..
A perfect example of this ongoing denial is Coca-Cola's reply to the video below, The Real Bears, produced by CSPI. The company called the short-film "irresponsible" and "grandstanding" that will not help anyone "understand energy balance."
I cannot think of any instance where you might need a soda in order to maintain correct "energy balance." You can achieve optimal health without any added sugar or artificial sweeteners. In fact, if you want to understand energy balance, read up on how to become fat-adapted rather than being a sugar burner. This requires cutting out virtually all added sugars.
Still, their vehement refusal to accept responsibility for leading you astray does not surprise me. Just take a look at the history of Coca-Cola's advertising, and you'll quickly realize that this leopard is not about to change its spots anytime soon. Two sites offering this history lesson include Arandilla's "Coca-Cola Advertising Through the Years" blog4, and NPR's blog page5, "Vigor, Brain Power and Other Health Claims From Coke's Advertising Past."
Now, Coca-Cola, the leading beverage brand in the world, realizes it's losing the information war and is trying to shift your attention to its 180 different no- and low-calorie beverages. Well, this certainly is NOT going to address the obesity problem. On the contrary, artificial sweeteners have been shown to produce even MORE weight gain than regular sugar and even high fructose corn syrup.
Coke Advocating Flawed, Outdated Calorie-Counting Advice
Evidence of just how behind-the-times Coca-Cola is, their brand new multi-million dollar campaign focuses on the sentiment that:
"...beating obesity will take action by all of us, based on one simple, common-sense fact: All calories count, no matter where they come from. ...And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight."6
This "conventional wisdom" has been firmly debunked by science. Not all calories count equally. And the "calories in, calories out" hypothesis for maintaining weight has equally been shown to be incorrect. It is in fact FAR more important to look at the source of the calories than counting them.
In short, you do not get fat because you eat too many calories and don't exercise enough. You get fat because you eat the wrong kind of calories. At the end of the day, your consumption of carbohydrates, whether in the form of grains and sugars (especially fructose), will determine whether or not you're able to manage your weight and maintain optimal health. This is because these types of carbs (fructose and grains) affect the hormone insulin, which is a very potent fat regulator. Fats and proteins affect insulin to a far lesser degree. Kudos to The Atlantic7 for calling Coca-Cola on its misleading tactics in its recent article titled, Coke's Unconscionable New Ad:
"Coca-Cola's latest attempt to position itself against the rising tide of concern about the role of sodas in the obesity epidemic is unconscionable, because of this statement: 'All calories count. No matter where they come from including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories.'
For Coca-Cola to suggest that all calories are equal flies in the face of reality as best as we can determine it... Coca-Cola wants us to ignore the considerable research confirming that sugary soda is a major contributor to obesity, and that it has no nutritional value... Coca-Cola could use its considerable advertising muscle to promote healthy exercise, yes, but when it does so as a ploy to confuse the public about the dangers of its products, that's not a public service, that's unethical."
The video above is from Youtube and is available to the public for information and entertainment purposes only.
Mercola.com does not own and did not produce this video.
Why Calorie Counting Doesn't Work
Dr. Robert Lustig, an expert on the metabolic fate of sugar, explains that fructose is 'isocaloric but not isometabolic.' This means you can have the same amount of calories from fructose or glucose, fructose and protein, or fructose and fat, but the metabolic effect will be entirely different despite the identical calorie count. This is a crucial point that must be understood.
Fructose is in fact far worse than other carbs because the vast majority of it converts directly to FAT, both in your fatty tissues, and in your liver. And this is why counting calories does not work... As long as you keep eating fructose and grains, you're programming your body to create and store fat.
Furthermore, research by Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado and author of The Sugar Fix and The Fat Switch, demonstrates that large portions of food and too little exercise are NOT solely responsible for why you are gaining weight. Rather it's fructose-containing sugars that cause obesity – not by calories, but by turning on your "fat switch," a powerful biological adaptation that causes cells to accumulate fat in anticipation of scarcity (or hibernation). According to Dr. Johnson, based on his decades of research:
"Those of us who are obese eat more because of a faulty 'switch' and exercise less because of a low energy state. If you can learn how to control the specific 'switch' located in the powerhouse of each of your cells – the mitochondria – you hold the key to fighting obesity."
According to Beverage Digest, soda consumption in the US has been on a steady decline since 1998.8 A recent article in The Atlantic9 shows consumption of soda "in freefall," with US consumption having declined by 40 percent since 2003. Unfortunately, many are simply switching to no- or low-cal beverages, which Coca-Cola is now trying to boost, and quite frankly, if I had to choose between these two evils, I'd choose regular soda, as artificial sweeteners are even worse for your long-term health, and have been linked to increased weight gain when compared to calorie-containing sweeteners.
No- or Low-Cal Beverages CONTRIBUTE to Obesity Problem
While soda consumption has gone down, consumption of artificially sweetened "diet" beverages has risen in that same time, according to an October 11, 2012 report by USA Today.10 The industry has effectively convinced people that diet drinks are a healthier choice because they lack any calories. However, if you're concerned about your weight and health, switching to artificial sweeteners is NOT a wise move.
Mounting research shows that diet soda is not a "guilt-free" treat at all. For example, two studies published in 2011 linked diet soda to poor health outcomes. In one study, people who drank two or more diet sodas a day experienced waist size increases that were six times greater than those of people who didn't drink diet soda. A second study that found that aspartame (NutraSweet) raised blood sugar levels in diabetes-prone mice.
As you may know, your waist size is not only a matter of aesthetics, but also a powerful indicator of a build-up of visceral fat, a dangerous type of fat around your internal organs that is strongly linked with type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Your waist size is a far more accurate predictor of your heart risks than your body mass index (BMI). Nearly eight years ago, research by Sharon P. Fowler, MPH11 (who was also involved in the newer studies noted above) found that your risk of obesity increases by 41 percent for each can of diet soda you drink in a day. Furthermore, for diet soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:
- 36.5 percent for up to 1/2 can per day
- 57.1 percent for more than 2 cans per day
For regular soft-drink drinkers, the risk of becoming overweight or obese was:
- 26 percent for up to 1/2 can per day
- 32.8 percent for 1 to 2 cans per day
- 47.2 percent for more than 2 cans per day
How Decreasing Sugar Intake Can Impact Body Weight
In related news, recently published research12 shows that decreasing sugar consumption can help you lose weight. The researchers examined outcomes from 71 studies on sugar consumption and body fat. The duration of included studies ranged from two weeks to one year. According to the authors:
"In trials of adults with ad libitum diets (that is, with no strict control of food intake), reduced intake of dietary sugars was associated with a decrease in body weight (0.80 kg/1.8 lb); increased sugars intake was associated with a comparable weight increase (0.75 kg/1.7 lb).
Isoenergetic exchange of dietary sugars with other carbohydrates showed no change in body weight . Trials in children... in relation to intakes of sugar sweetened beverages after one year follow-up in prospective studies, the odds ratio for being overweight or obese increased was 1.55 (1.32 to 1.82) among groups with the highest intake compared with those with the lowest intake. Despite significant heterogeneity in one meta-analysis and potential bias in some trials, sensitivity analyses showed that the trends were consistent and associations remained after these studies were excluded."
Skyrocketing Obesity is Related to Misleading You on Health Issues
Obesity is the result of inappropriate lifestyle choices, and unfortunately, our government has done an abysmal job at disseminating accurate information about diet and health. It's one thing for corporations to put out misleading ads – honesty is not in the self-interest of the processed food and beverage industry. It's another when the government falls in line with for-profit deception and becomes a propagator of corporate propaganda. And this is exactly what has happened... For example, conventional advice that is driving public health in the wrong direction includes:
- Cutting calories: Not all calories are created equal, and counting calories will not help you lose weight if you're consuming the wrong kind of calories
- Choosing diet foods will help you lose weight: Substances like Splenda and aspartame may have zero calories, but your body isn't fooled. When it gets a "sweet" taste, it expects calories to follow, and when this doesn't occur it leads to distortions in your biochemistry that may actually lead to weight gain
- Avoiding saturated fat: The myth that saturated fat causes heart disease has undoubtedly harmed an incalculable number of lives over the past several decades, even though it all began as little more than a scientifically unsupported marketing strategy for Crisco cooking oil. Most people actually need at least 50 percent of their diet to include healthful saturated fats such as organic, pastured eggs, avocados, coconut oil, real butter and grass-fed beef in order to optimize their health
- Reducing your cholesterol to extremely low levels: Cholesterol is actually NOT the major culprit in heart disease or any disease, and the guidelines that dictate what number your cholesterol levels should be to keep you "healthy" are fraught with conflict of interest -- and have never been proven to be good for your health
This is just a tiny sampling of the misleading information on weight and obesity disseminated by our government agencies. A more complete list of conventional health myths could easily fill an entire series of books. The reason behind this sad state of affairs is the fact that the very industries that profit from these lies are the ones funding most of the research; infiltrating our regulatory agencies; and bribing our political officials to support their financially-driven agenda through any number of legal, and at times not so legal, means.
Could Warning Labels Be Part of the Answer?
According to Dr. Harold Goldstein, executive director of the non-profit group The California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), "43 percent of the increase in daily calories Americans consumed over the last 30 years came from sugary drinks." The CCPHA has published a list of seven things soda makers could do to create "meaningful change," such as13:
- Cease all advertising of sugary drinks to children under 16
- Add warning labels to containers stating the link between soda consumption and obesity, diabetes and tooth decay, just like cigarettes must declare its connection to lung cancer
- Declare number of teaspoons of sugar the container contains, in large print
- Quit marketing sports drinks as healthy beverages
You Can Avoid Becoming a Statistic
Perhaps one of the most powerful scientific discoveries to emerge in the past several years is that the old adage "a calorie is a calorie" is patently false. Furthermore, the idea that in order to lose weight all you have to do is expend more calories than you consume is also false... The research clearly demonstrates that even if you control the number of calories you eat, if those calories come from fructose, you are at increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome, or prediabetes, which includes insulin resistance, fatty liver, high blood pressure and high triglycerides.
Conventional thinking tells us that metabolic syndrome is the outcome of obesity, which is simply the result of eating too many calories and not exercising enough. However, Dr. Johnson's research, discussed above, shows that a high fructose diet is the key to developing metabolic syndrome, and that as soon as you throw fructose into the mix, "calories in versus calories out" is no longer a functional equation.
In short, avoiding fructose in all its forms, along with other sugars, is imperative in order to avoid "flipping the fat switch" that can trigger your body to accumulate excess fat. So please, do yourself and your family a favor, and don't get swept up in Coca-Cola's multi-million dollar ad extravaganza. The entire campaign is based on flawed, inaccurate, misleading, and patently false conventions of thinking.
Let's not forget: Coca-Cola spent $1.2 million to defeat California Proposition 37 last November, which would have required genetically engineered (GE) foods to be labeled as such (which could have included soda containing GE high fructose corn syrup). That, in and of itself, is proof positive that Coca-Cola has no concern for health conscious consumers.