Cardiology Goes Better with Coke


Story at-a-glance -

  • The American College of Cardiology (ACC) recently emailed cardiologists a memo detailing a free educational webinar, sponsored by Coca-Cola
  • Coca-Cola often sponsors and teams up with medical organizations, including the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, claiming to be interested in improving heart health and fighting obesity
  • Heavy Coca-Cola drinkers are making Coke executives rich while increasing their own risk of heart disease, obesity, heart attack, stroke and other health problems – and these stem from both diet and regular Coca-Cola products
  • Coke has a nearly $3-billion annual advertising budget, and is therefore easily able to convince the masses that they’re doing something to help fight obesity, when in reality they are a major part of the problem

By Dr. Mercola

The American College of Cardiology (ACC) recently emailed cardiologists a memo detailing a free educational webinar they will be hosting that offers a 'comprehensive view of women's cardiovascular health as they age.'

There's nothing particularly noteworthy about this… until you scroll down and see Coca-Cola's red-and-white logo emblazoned on the bottom of the message.

It turns out the free webinar to cardiologists is being paid for by Coca-Cola, perhaps sending the message, as Forbes put it, that cardiology goes better with Coke.1

This bears a striking resemblance to the cigarette ads featuring physicians that were actually promoting smoking. It is clear that in the future, once excessive sugar is recognized as a more potent disease producer than smoking, the public will not look favorably on these types of relationships.

Coca-Cola Often Partners With Medical Organizations

It may seem strange that the manufacturers of the world's leading sugary drink, known to promote obesity, diabetes and heart disease, would be able to market their logo directly on an email from the American College of Cardiology, but this is precisely the point.

The Coca-Cola Company wants you to believe that drinking their soda goes hand-in-hand with leading a healthy lifestyle, to the extent that they're even endorsed by leading medical organizations. The reason this works, of course, is because Coca-Cola pays a lot of money to sponsor events they deem lucrative to their public image.

In 2010, for instance, Diet Coke teamed up with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to raise awareness for women's heart health programs as part of the 'Red Dress' campaign (this is why you'll see a red dress on Diet Coke cans).

They also were named the official "Beverage of Choice" for the 2010 winter Olympics (nothing like the pleasure of seeing one of the world's biggest sugary beverage brands side-by-side with some of the world's greatest athletes) and, last year, Coca-Cola chose ACC president William Zoghbi to be one of the 22 people to carry the Olympic flame.

Apparently, Coca-Cola chose Zoghbi because they sponsor ACC's CardioSmart Initiative,2 which, ironically, touts empowering individuals to make better, heart-healthier lifestyle choices as one of its key principles.3

Also ironic is ACC's statement that they 'carefully review each potential sponsor, its products and how well the organization and its brand fit with the ACC's goals and values." As Forbes contributor Larry Husten quipped:4

"I wonder what criteria the ACC Board of Trustees used in determining that Coca-Cola and "its brand fit with the ACC's goals and values." I was particularly disturbed by the words that Zoghbi was 'chosen' by Coca-Cola.

At first I thought I might make a snide comment about how Coca-Cola might end up choosing the next president of the ACC, but that seemed a bit extreme and unfair. But then I wondered: given the financial ties between the ACC and Coca-Cola, what is the likelihood that the ACC will choose a president in the future who takes a strong stand against a company like Coca-Cola?"

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Coca-Cola Is No Friend to Your Heart

While Coca-Cola is busy coming up with new balanced and healthy living initiatives that make it appear as though they're a committed health-conscious company, Americans are busy slurping down nearly 11 pounds of sugar per person, annually, just from drinking Coca-Cola alone.5

In case you were wondering, that's an average of 399 servings of Coke products every year, for every American, which is a bit less than the typical 56 gallons of soda the average American drinks annually.

Heavy soda drinkers are making Coke executives rich, but they're certainly not doing themselves any favors. This group is more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease, for starters, as research shows that drinking more than one soft drink a day is associated with an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome -- a group of symptoms such as central obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting blood sugar, insulin resistance, elevated fasting triglycerides, and low levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol.

Having three or more of the symptoms increases your risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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. This is where Coca-Cola tries to distance itself from causing health problems, stressing instead that you simply need to count your calories (including those from Coke products) to stay healthy.

However, research by Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of the Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension at the University of Colorado, shows that a high fructose diet is one of the keys 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 and thereby increase your risk of heart disease, among other problems. What is the most common source of fructose in many Americans diets? Soda.

Diet Soda Is Not Heart-Healthy Either

While soda consumption in the US has declined by 40 percent in the last 10 years, consumption of artificially sweetened "diet" beverages has risen in that same time, with many believing the latter to be the healthier choice.

But 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 found that aspartame (NutraSweet) raised blood sugar levels in diabetes-prone mice. More recently, a 2013 human study found that Splenda (sucralose) promoted metabolic changes such as insulin resistance and blood sugar elevations consistent with prediabetic changes.6

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.

Not to mention, people who drink diet soft drinks daily have been found to be 43 percent more likely to suffer from a vascular event, including a stroke or heart attack.7 And research by Sharon P. Fowler, MPH found that your risk of obesity increases by 41 percent for each can of diet soda you regularly drink in a day.8

So if you're still under the impression that Coca-Cola has public health as one of its key initiatives, think again. And 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 consumers' health.

A Bigger Marketing Budget Than Microsoft and Apple Combined

There isn't much that a $3-billion-a-year advertising budget can't buy… and that is precisely the budget that Coca-Cola enjoys – bigger than the advertising budgets of Microsoft and Apple combined.9 This is why 94 percent of the world's population recognizes the Coca-Cola logo,10 and why Coke is easily able to convince the masses that they're doing something to help fight obesity, when in reality they are a major part of the problem.

Granted, no one is forcing anyone to drink their products, 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.

Coca-Cola, in particular, though one of the most 'beloved' brands in America, actually has a dark side. Coke and other soft drinks were heavily marketed to schools prior to 2006 with the intent of hooking kids on their brands early on. Soft drink contracts that paid schools to dot their halls with soda machines used to be commonplace, although more recently the US soft drinks industry says it has dramatically cut the number of high-calorie soft drinks sold in schools.

Furthermore, investigative journalist Michael Blanding revealed in his book, The Coke Machine -- The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink, that Coca-Cola bottling plants in India have dramatically lowered the water supply, drying up wells for local villagers while also dumping cadmium, chromium and other carcinogens into the local environment.

Coca-Cola also engages in a common practice among giant corporations of establishing "independent" companies to act as front groups in the case of any bad press, and while Coca-Cola has made some small steps to be more environmentally friendly, Blanding revealed that these steps are nothing more than a carefully orchestrated front, noting:11

" … I found that in many cases they were doing this more as a way to brand themselves as an environmental company and anything that would cost them a good deal of money they were not doing -- they reduced the amount of recycled material in their bottles because that is more expensive and they've lobbied against bottle bills that would affect their bottom line."

Are You Addicted to Soda?

Make no mistake -- one of the best steps you can take to protect your heart and improve your overall health is to cut soda (diet and regular) from your diet. Complete avoidance of sweets, including diet drinks, is often necessary to break the addictive cycle if you are already hooked. However, you can also try swapping these drinks for a "natural soda" made from the herb stevia and carbonated water (the liquid stevia comes in flavors like my two favorites, English Toffee and French Vanilla).

If you're still unable to resist soda, the emotional connection to cravings might be an important factor. One of the most profound methods I know of for diminishing the effects of food cravings is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is the psychological acupressure technique routinely used in my practice to help people reduce their cravings (and it works well for kids, too). Turbo Tapping, in particular, is very useful for soda addiction.

My nutrition plan also offers a step-by-step guide to eating right, and I encourage you to read through it now to learn how to make healthy eating decisions for you and your children. Each stage (beginner, intermediate and advanced) offers a separate section on beverages as well, which you can review for tips on making healthier drink choices.