By Dr. Mercola
I've often written about the collusion between industry and our regulatory agencies, and how industry-funded research tends to simply support and promote the industry agenda rather than shed truthful light on the benefits or risks of any given product.
Recent media reports have now revealed devastating evidence showing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) executive aided a Coca-Cola representative in efforts to influence World Health Organization (WHO) officials to relax recommendations on sugar limits.1
In March 2015, WHO published a new sugar guideline that specifically targeted sugary beverages, calling them out as a primary cause for childhood obesity around the world, especially in developing nations, where the soda industry is now aggressively expanding its reach.
WHO's recommendation to limit soda consumption was a huge blow to an already beleaguered soda industry, struggling to maintain a declining market share amid mounting evidence identifying sweetened drinks as a primary contributor to the obesity and diabetes epidemics.
"The emails were between Barbara Bowman, Ph.D. director of the CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, and Dr. Alex Malaspina, a former Coca-Cola scientific and regulatory affairs leader and the founder of a food industry-funded group, International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI).
They allegedly show Bowman's multiple attempts to aid Malaspina's relationship with WHO leaders whose actions (think soda tax) were hurting the beverage industry.
According to the report, Bowman — whose job is to try to help prevent obesity, diabetes and other health problems — 'appeared happy to help the beverage industry cultivate political sway with the World Health Organization.'"
This kind of political maneuvering and back scratching is covered at length in Marion Nestle, Ph.D.'s book "Soda Politics." I interviewed Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, last year.
In 2013, I interviewed Michele Simon, who has practiced public health law for nearly 20 years, fighting corporate tactics that deceive and manipulate you about health. Last year, she released a report that revealed disturbing ties between the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) — considered a premier source of nutritional science — and the primary purveyors of obesity and chronic ill health.
ASN is sponsored by 30 different companies, including Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, Monsanto and the Sugar Association, just to mention a few, each of which pays $10,000 a year in return for "print and online exposure, annual meeting benefits, and first choice to sponsor educational sessions, grants, awards and other opportunities as they arise." As noted by Simon:
"In other words, food, beverage, supplement, biotech and pharmaceutical industry leaders are able to purchase cozy relationships with the nation's top nutrition researchers."
Junk food purveyors gain even more influence by sponsoring educational sessions at various conferences and annual meetings, and featuring speakers that represent the industry. ASN's ties are particularly problematic since they also publish three academic journals, including the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN).
These ties can "taint scientific objectivity, negatively impact the organization's policy recommendations, and result in industry-friendly research and messaging that is shared with nutrition professionals and the general public alike," according to Simon.
Obesity researcher David Allison, Ph.D. tops the list of those with the most conflicts. Allison serves on the editorial board of the AJCN, ASN's flagship publication, even though he has ties to PepsiCo, the Sugar Association, World Sugar Research Organization, Red Bull, Kellogg, Mars, Campbell Soup and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group.
According to Simon, "having Allison in such a critical gatekeeper role demonstrates how industry can potentially influence even the science that gets published."
'Just Say No' to Soda
"Just Say No" was a slogan created by first lady Nancy Reagan. The "Just Say No" advertising campaign against recreational drug use was prevalent through the 1980s. Today, the same slogan would be appropriate to discourage soda consumption, and a whole lot easier to implement as well.
If you struggle with weight or chronic health issues, replacing soda and other sweet drinks, including fruit juices, with pure water could be one of the best things you could possibly do. Granted, other dietary changes are likely needed as well, but for many, ditching soda can go a long way.
If you crave some flavor, try adding some lime or lemon juice to still or sparkling water. Tea is another option. Just avoid adding sugar, and steer clear of bottled varieties as they're usually loaded with added sugars. Ditto for so-called "designer water" like Vitamin Water.
If you find it difficult to quit, don't be discouraged. Many are indeed addicted to soda. To break free, be sure to address the emotional component of your food cravings using tools such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). A version referred to as Turbo Tapping tends to be particularly useful for eliminating soda addiction in a short amount of time.
If you still have cravings after trying EFT or Turbo Tapping, you may need to make some changes to your diet. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step fashion.
Remember, sweetened beverages, whether sweetened with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), naturally occurring fructose or artificial sweeteners are among the worst culprits in the fight against obesity and related health problems, including diabetes and heart disease. Ditching ALL of these types of beverages is a significant first step toward reducing your risk for chronic health problems and weight gain.