Don't worry about keeping a healthy diet -- just be sure to exercise after you eat all those chalupas and you'll be fine! At least, that's what Coca-Cola would like you to believe.
According to a report by The New York Times, the largest manufacturer of sugary drinks is funding a group of scientists from a nonprofit organization called Global Energy Balance Network, which promotes the idea that achieving a healthy weight has more to do with exercise than avoiding fast food and sugary drinks. How convenient!
In a new video promoting this mission, the group's vice president Steven N. Blair says, "Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on... And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause."
Of course, not everyone's hopping on the bandwagon. The Times reports that numerous health experts think the group's claim is deceptive and just a way to take the blame off Coke for its part in the growth of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. "Coca-Cola’s agenda here is very clear: Get these researchers to confuse the science and deflect attention from dietary intake," said Marion Nestle, NYU professor of nutrition, food studies and public health and author of "Soda Politics."
GEBN president James O. Hill made it clear that Coke's funding in no way affects their research, saying "They’re not running the show... We’re running the show." But Coke has tried this tactic before -- previously recruiting scientists to help rebrand soda as a healthy drink and working with fitness and nutrition experts to promote the mini-can as a healthier drink.
Critics now warn against falling for GEBN's new claims. "Adding exercise to a diet program helps," said Dr. Anne McTiernan, researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and lead author of one of the most in-depth studies on physical activity and weight loss said. "But for weight loss, you’re going to get much more impact with diet changes."
So, better think twice before you start double fisting sodas on the elliptical.
Lucy Meilus is a staff writer for Thrillist and used to drink seven cans of Diet Coke a day. She's mostly okay now. Follow her on Twitter at @Lucymeilus and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.