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Coke's Cookie Is Crumbling

Coca-Cola Sales

Story at-a-glance -

  • Gregory Hand, Ph.D., the former dean of the West Virginia School of Public Health, was forced out as dean because of his involvements with Coca-Cola
  • Coca-Cola reportedly gave Hand more than half a million dollars to start a nonprofit group tasked with spreading the word that lack of exercise, and not sugary beverages, is responsible for obesity.
  • The beverage giant also gave Hand $806,500 to conduct an “energy flux” study in 2011
  • Michael Pratt, senior adviser for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, has also promoted and led research for Coca-Cola

By Dr. Mercola

Sugary beverages, soda chief among them, have been blamed for rising rates of obesity and related chronic diseases in developed countries, and there's evidence to support such claims.

Leading beverage companies like Coca-Cola, however, want the public to believe they're not part of the problem but rather are innocent scapegoats.

To get this message across and save their quickly deflating public image, Coca-Cola gave money — a lot of money — to Gregory Hand, Ph.D., the former dean of the West Virginia School of Public Health, to start a nonprofit group called the Global Energy Balance Network.

In early August 2016, the school announced Hand had been demoted and was forced out as dean because of his seemingly unscrupulous involvements with Coca-Cola, although he will still be working at the school in another role.

The purpose of the now-defunct Global Energy Balance Network, for instance, was to promote the message that lack of exercise, and not sugary beverages, is responsible for obesity.

Coca-Cola reportedly gave Hand more than half a million dollars to start the misleading nonprofit. About a year ago, health experts called the nonprofit's message "misleading" and "an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes."1

West Virginia School of Public Health Dean Forced to Step Down Due to Coca-Cola Conflicts

The formation of the Global Energy Balance Network was only one of Hand's underhanded dealings with Coca-Cola. The beverage giant also gave Hand $806,500 to conduct an "energy flux" study in 2011.

When leaders in public health are partnering with soda makers to downplay the risks such beverages pose in obesity, heart disease, diabetes and more, clearly they have not only failed in their duty to protect public health but also have taken steps to worsen it.

Gary Ruskin of the public interest group U.S. Right to Know told Corporate Crime Reporter:2

"Gregory Hand betrayed West Virginia taxpayers and his public health profession by helping Coca-Cola to evade responsibility for its role in the obesity epidemic …

Hand's role as dean was to improve public health, but he did the opposite … It's a good start that Hand was removed from his post at dean, but he should be fired from West Virginia University."

Coca-Cola Front Group Shut Down After Bad Press

The Global Energy Balance Network was basically a front group aimed at confusing you about soda science and diverting attention away from evidence showing soda is a major contributor to obesity and diabetes.

One of the group's primary messages was to tout exercise as the science-backed solution to obesity — while downplaying the importance of dietary issues, like soda consumption.

Coca-Cola did not come right out and disclose that they were behind the supposedly scientific front group — they were outed by The New York Times in August 2015.3

After The New York Times report, the front group received so much bad press and criticism that one of their academic ties, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said it would return the $1 million grant Coca-Cola had given them to help start the group.

Public health authorities accused the group of using tobacco-industry tactics to raise doubts about the health hazards of soda, and a letter signed by more than three-dozen scientists said the group was spreading "scientific nonsense."4

By December 2015, the Global Energy Balance Network announced it would be shutting down, with Coca-Cola claiming it was working on increased transparency.5

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Even CDC Officials Have Close Ties With Coca-Cola

Another leader in public health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), should be cracking down on corporations promoting products linked to poor health and disease. Instead, they appear to have taken the company under their protective wing.

Earlier this year, for instance, Barbara Bowman, Ph.D., former director of the CDC's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention (DHDSP), left the agency unexpectedly, two days after her close ties with Coca-Cola were revealed.

Bowman reportedly aided a Coca-Cola representative in efforts to influence World Health Organization (WHO) officials to relax recommendations on sugar limits.6 Bowman, however, was not the only CDC official looking out for Coca-Cola.

Uncovered emails now suggest that Michael Pratt, senior adviser for Global Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC, has also promoted and led research for the soda giant. According to The Huffington Post:7

"Pratt did not respond to questions about his work, which includes a position as a professor at Emory University, a private research university in Atlanta that has received millions of dollars from the Coca-Cola Foundation and more than $100 million from famed longtime Coca-Cola leader Robert W. Woodruff and Woodruff's brother George.

Indeed, Coca-Cola's financial support for Emory is so strong that the university states on its website that 'it's unofficially considered poor school spirit to drink other soda brands on campus.'"

Coca-Cola CEO Assures Media That People Are Still Spending Money on Soda

Research suggests sugary beverages are to blame for about 183,000 deaths worldwide each year, including 133,000 diabetes deaths, 44,000 heart disease deaths and 6,000 cancer deaths. The health risks must be catching on, as soda consumption has been on a steady decline for decades.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Americans say they actively try to avoid soda in their diet,8 and Americans now consume about the same amount they did back in 1986. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola sales fell 5 percent to $11.54 billion, from $12.16 billion in the year-ago quarter, according to Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent.9

Despite this, Kent told the media that "consumers are still buying and spending money on sparkling beverages," just in smaller amounts. The company has adopted a new strategy of selling smaller sizes of soft drinks at a higher margin in efforts to boost revenue.

Soda May Increase the Risk of Gallbladder and Bile Duct Cancer

Coca-Cola has spent nearly $120 million on grants given to health organizations, including cancer organizations,10 in recent years, which is ironic since soda has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Recently, a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute revealed high consumption of sweetened beverages may increase the risk of rare cancers in the gallbladder and bile ducts around the liver.11

The finding is particularly noteworthy because research suggests obesity and elevated blood sugar levels (often found in diabetes) may increase the risk of these rare cancers — and both obesity and diabetes have, in turn, been linked to sugary drinks.

Diet Soda May Disrupt Your Gut Microbiota

As we've seen many times over, the solution to avoiding the health risks of sugary beverages is NOT to switch to artificially sweetened diet soda, as these beverages have just as much risk as their sugar-sweetened cousins — if not more so.

Studies have found that artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, may lead to weight gain12 and glucose intolerance by altering gut microbiota.13

Unbeknownst to many, aspartame has been found toincreasehunger ratings compared to glucose or water and is associated with heightened motivation to eat (even more so than other artificial sweeteners like saccharin or acesulfame potassium).14

For a substance often used in "diet" products, the fact that aspartame may actually increaseweight gain is incredibly misleading. A study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism also found that consuming aspartame may be associated with greater glucose intolerance, particularly for people who are obese. According to the study:15

"This study provides evidence that consumption of aspartame may be associated with greater diabetes risk in individuals with higher adiposity. Aspartame is reported to be associated with changes in gut microbiota that are associated with impairments in insulin resistance in lean and obese rodents. We observe that aspartame was related to significantly greater impairments in glucose tolerance for individuals with obesity … "

Diet Soda May Make You Consume More Calories

It's a myth that drinking diet soda can help you lose weight. On the contrary, a recent study on fruit flies again found that artificial sweeteners may make you eat more than you normally would.16 For the study, fruit flies were fed a diet of food sweetened with sucralose (Spenda) or sugar for five days.

Those fed sucralose ate about 30 percent more calories than those fed sugar. The researchers then revealed that sucralose activated a fasting response in the flies, which triggered them to eat more to compensate for the perceived lack of food.17

A similar study conducted in mice yielded similar results, with the mice fed sucralose consuming more food. What's more, when the flies were fed real sugar later on, the brains of those that had been used to consuming artificial sweeteners responded differently. They showed more activity in response to the sugar, which suggests it tasted sweeter after getting used to artificial sweeteners. Study author Herbert Herzog told Forbes:18

"These findings further reinforce the idea that 'sugar-free' varieties of processed food and drink may not be as inert as we anticipated … Artificial sweeteners can actually change how animals perceive the sweetness of their food, with a discrepancy between sweetness and energy levels prompting an increase in caloric consumption."

Not to mention, 92 percent of independently funded studies found aspartame, which is often used in diet soda, may cause adverse effects beyond increased calorie consumption, including depression and headaches.19 Writing in Vice, one woman also shared her story of how suffering from chronic migraines virtually ruined her 20s — until a migraine specialist finally made the connection to diet soda.

She was drinking close to three bottles of aspartame-sweetened diet soda a day and suffering from multiple migraines a week. When she gave up the diet soda, the migraines went away.20

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Don't Fall for Coca-Cola's Marketing — Give up Soda to Protect Your Health

Despite Coca-Cola's slick marketing campaigns, government ties and heavy contributions to academia to give the illusion that drinking soda is perfectly healthy, the fact remains that this is one dietary habit worth kicking to the curb. Your best, most cost-effective choice of beverage is filtered tap water. I strongly recommend using a high-quality water filtration system unless you can verify the purity of your water. Seltzer or mineral water is another option.

Adding a squeeze of lemon or lime is one way to add some flavor and variety, and many soda drinkers find it easier to ditch soda when replacing it with some sparkling water. Unsweetened tea and coffee can also be healthy beverage choices. As for a safer sweetener option, you could use stevia or Luo Han, both of which are safe natural sweeteners.

However, if you struggle with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or extra weight, then you have insulin sensitivity issues and would likely benefit from avoiding all sweeteners, including stevia and Luo Han. In order to break free of your soda habit, be sure you also address the emotional component of your cravings using tools such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).

Turbo Tapping, in particular, is an extremely effective and simple tool to get rid of your soda addiction in a short amount of time. In addition, soda cravings may be a sign that you need to make some changes to your diet to better fulfill your nutritional requirements. My free nutrition plan can help you do this in a step-by-step manner.