Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
4 Nov

Coca-Cola Cares About Your Health

It’s the stuff of quintessential irony. Paradox. An absurdity so egregious it’s painful to type, let alone view on the screen. (There’s actual smoke rising from my keyboard….) We’re talking corporate “public health” sponsorships so ridiculous your eyes will fall out of your head. First, a show of hands. How many of you are familiar with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)? Sounds like a thoughtful, professional organization, yes? A group dedicated to noble and intelligent advocacy for good family health, no? Voices of expert reason, rational and practical medical authority, right? A group that would – with sound mind and sobriety – partner with a soda company for a nutrition-focused consumer education program??? Folks, I got my boots on today for a good old-fashioned butt kicking (blog style, that is). Pull up a chair. I’m just getting started.

Here’s the gist. The aforementioned Academy of Family Physicians recently partnered with The Coca-Cola Company (peddler of Coke, Sprite, Fanta and tricked up sugar-, I mean vitaminwater and POWERADE), to help “educate consumers about the role their products can play in a healthy, active lifestyle.” Yes, do the double take….  Now sit with it. Is it burning your brain yet? (Just rest and take a breath whenever you need to.)

This truly pains me, but I’ll continue. Keep in mind that all the quotes are from the AAFP’s own website.

The high fructose corn syrup with caramel color beverage company has benevolently offered their financial assistance in creating “consumer education content on beverages and sweeteners for [the AAFP’s website], an award-winning consumer health and wellness resource.” H-E-A-L-T-H resource – award-winning, no less? Oh, there’s more. The president-elect of the AAFP welcomes Coca-Cola’s partnership in “teach[ing] consumers how to make the right choices and incorporate the products they love into a balanced and healthy lifestyle.” R-I-G-H-T choices? O.K., let’s go for broke here. As for Coca-Cola’s self-congratulations, their talking head tells us the “partnership will help provide Americans with credible information on beverages and enable consumers to make informed decisions about what they drink based on individual need.” C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E? and N-E-E-D?!! (My keyboard is now a smoldering pile of dust.)

Where do you even begin with this farce? But wait – there’s more.

The AAFP’s partnership with the evil empire is the first of what they hope to be many productive collaborations with corporate sponsors. (Gee, nothing like getting off to a stellar start!) It’s part of the organization’s new “Consumer Alliance,” a division created from the brilliant realization “that consumer products companies have significant influence over consumer health.” (Gee, so let’s just give them more influence???) The AAFP’s Consumer Alliance “strategy” then is to “partner with companies who demonstrate good corporate stewardship and a strategic focus on consumer health.” (After all, how can you read that description and not think soda?)

And before you think this is a random, lucky feather in Coca-Cola’s hat, let’s pull another debased acronym out of the hat of shame. Another show of hands. This time it’s the American Dietetic Association (ADA), the “world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals” and partner with Coca-Cola. (Proving yet again that big isn’t always better…) With their impressive headcount, they’re “committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.” Unlike the AAFP (mere greenhorns in the corporate sponsorship realm), these guys are impressively entrenched in big corporate dollars. Let’s take a look at a few of the ADA’s sponsors. We have Pepsico, National Dairy Council, Mars, Inc. (Anyone for a Snickers?), Kellogg’s, General Mills, and, oh yes, Truvia. (Very clever, Cargill, we see you hiding behind that stevia leaf.) Oh, now there’s a impressive troupe – just the kind of folks you trust to offer solid nutritional advice. They all have a real stake in helping Americans make good nutritional choices, eh?

But enough about Coca-Cola and the corporate giants themselves. After all, it’s not really about these guys. Companies that sell crap will always exist because they have a right to and because there will always be people ignorant or self-destructive enough to keep them in business. The real outrage here is the willingness of medical organizations (and public schools (though this is changing), and hunger relief charities, and “life-changing”, weight-loss reality shows) to surrender even the appearance of objectivity and basic intelligence for a few dollars that – pardon me – don’t seem to be making any difference whatsoever in the American public’s health. It defies all common sense to allow soda and candy bar companies to be credible partners in any discussion of nutrition and wellness. For these medical “experts,” I’d say, you’re doing more than just taking their money. For the love, they offer it for a reason! They pay up to buy legitimacy and the implicit endorsement of their products that these visible partnerships offer. These companies do it to boost their public image and show that their products have an expert-sanctioned place in the American diet. How much are these medical associations really benefiting from being played so badly? Seriously, if the AAFP wants to add some content to their website, how much does it really cost to hire competent people to put together legitimate research for a public audience? Maybe the problem isn’t money as much as money management? Sponsorships from smaller, more truly health-conscious companies wouldn’t have cut it? They needed so much money for these modest projects that they had to go begging to the monstrosities of corporate America?

Finally, there’s the argument that these organizations don’t have the money for true visibility on their own. They can’t compete with the omnipresent junk food ads put out by the corporate giants that sell the stuff. Gee, so what’s their answer? Team up with these same seedy players so you can buy your ad space (wherever that might be)! The fact is, you’ve already lost the argument. You’ve rescinded the right to call a spade a spade and soda the worthless horsesh– that it is. What’s the point in even making an argument then? The informed public doesn’t have any faith in you, and the ignorant ones who are looking for an excuse to continue their morning Coke habit now have it. You’ve said that soda can be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, and that’s all these people need to hear. Trust me, they don’t bother listening to the rest of the message, and they’re certainly not going to scour your organization’s website to look for any other reason to abstain. The AAFP’s can boast all it wants about being the “only consumer health Web site owned and operated by a professional medical association….” Sorry, AAFP, where I come from bunk is bunk, however you spin it. And selling out is selling out, however you justify your deal with the devil in a red can.

I’ve said my piece. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for reading.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I had my first Coke in at least five years yesterday. We were moving offices, the water was gone, I was really* thirsty and a coworker handed me an icy cold Coke.

    “What’s ONE Coke going to do to me?” I thought.

    I took one sip, felt all my teeth threaten to fall out, and threw it away. Turns out I’d rather be dying of thirst than dying of Coke.

    BenevolentForce wrote on November 5th, 2009
  2. To be fair to the Coca Cola corporation– they do own Minute Maid so some of those products might be considered part of healthy nutrition.
    However, just the idea that an organization like the AAFP would partner with a corporation whose chief interests are selling soda, boggles the mind. Bill Maher hit the nail on the head when he made this comment.
    Big Food and Big Pharma don’t want you dead and they don’t want you healthy;
    they want you somewhere in between.
    I will definitely write to the AAFP and
    voice my opinion.

    Cynthia1770 wrote on November 5th, 2009
    • Minute Maid might be slightly better than coke, but it is still mostly sugar. I wouldn’t call it in any way healthy.

      Henry Miller wrote on November 5th, 2009
  3. Starting in 1999, I went low-carb, primarily just to be a supportive husband — it was my wife’s idea, because she had been diagnosed as diabetic, was on two meds, and getting worse. I was convinced that just like any other diet, we would be worse off in six months, but like I said, I wanted to be supportive.

    What happened next blew my mind. Over the next 12 months, I lost 100 lbs. But that wasn’t the best part. My restless leg syndrome vanished, my arthritis vanished, my severe acne vanished, my night vision improved dramatically, and my blood pressure went down.

    The interesting part of those secondary side-effects of low-carbbing is that they all occurred during the FIRST TWO WEEKS, long before I had lost any significant weight.

    Bear with me… I’m getting around to my discovery about cola beverages in a minute…

    One of the things I had cut out completely was carbonated beverages. Back in 1999, there weren’t any diet sodas that didn’t taste like crap, and since I was off of sugar, I didn’t drink any of the regular ones. But in mid-2000, Diet-Rite Cola with Splenda came out, and it actually had a bearable taste, so I bought a case of the stuff, and started drinking 3 or 4 cans a day.

    …and on day 3, my Restless Leg Syndrome came back with a vengeance. As luck would have it, I had gotten into the habit of keeping a detailed diet log of absolutely everything I was eating, and during that week, the ONLY change to my routine had been the addition of Diet-Rite Cola. So I cut it back out, and sure enough, the RLS went away again in a couple of days.

    Being a curious sort of guy, I decided to see if I could discover what the hell that was all about, so I started looking up everything I could find about each of the ingredients. When I got to “phosphoric acid”, I bingoed. Turns out that if you are getting sufficient protein, you’re getting enough phosphorus, and the only mechanism the body has for dumping excess phosphorus is by combining it with CALCIUM! A little research on calcium showed that the body has trouble absorbing calcium, so if you have anything that is chronically depleting it, it doesn’t even matter how much calcium you are getting by way of supplements. And calcium isn’t just about bones — it regulates how the muscles and nerves work, too (in balance with magnesium and potassium). And there was the connection with RLS.

    The phosphoric acid in carbonated beverages (almost all of them have it added, for the “mouth feel”) may be just as bad, if not worse, than the HFCS.

    TXCHLInstructor wrote on November 5th, 2009
    • ever stop to think that the extra caffeine could have the impetus of the return of RLS?

      I sugesst you read the latest research:

      meatman wrote on November 5th, 2009
      • I have varied the amount of caffeine from zero to 5-6 cups of coffee since that time, and I have not had a recurrence of RLS. And caffeine is not a listed ingredient of Diet-Rite Cola.

        Caffeine does have some other effects on me that I don’t like, so I have pretty much cut it out anyway, but I do not think it was a major contributor to my RLS.

        TXCHLInstructor wrote on November 5th, 2009
      • Just went back and read the abstract you mentioned. Like most “studies” in nutrition, this one would not get a passing grade in a rigorous collegiate-level science course. It reminds me of the “study” that provided “proof” that chocolate candy does not cause acne. One of the most fundamental laws of the scientific method is that regardless of how carefully you measure something, if you are measuring the wrong thing(s), your results are guaranteed to be meaningless. I could go on for quite a while about the obvious errors of this “study”, but suffice it to say that the “researchers” got exactly enough data to “prove” their pre-conceived notions, and no more.

        TXCHLInstructor wrote on November 5th, 2009
        • i agree that ‘most’ studies are bunk…but a peer reviewed one is likely to be one of them..

          ah well

          agree to disagree on the safety of diet cola? then we go back to collectively hating the vagaries of full sugar sodas

          meatman wrote on November 5th, 2009
        • I suppose you can believe anything you want about diet colas. And “peer-reviewed” studies, too. I once read a “peer-reviewed” study that removed the sugar from the diet of the test group, and concluded from the substantial health improvements that animal protein was bad for diabetics. The one cited here was not quite as egregious, but the data was NOT sufficient to support the conclusion, which is the mark of a “study” conducted by, and “peer-reviewed” by, True Believers.

          It is quite possible that diet cola is not as bad for you as the stuff with HFCS. But I don’t think it’s particularly good for you, either. I have convincingly verified to myself that Diet-Rite Cola with Splenda *causes* RLS in me, and I no longer have any use for the stuff. While I strongly suspect that the culprit is phosphoric acid, it would take more research to actually pin that down (and could possibly be due to more than one ingredient, or even some interaction with another component of my diet), but having successfully rid myself of a major sleep disorder which affected me for over 2 decades by simply omitting cola beverages, I have basically lost interest in researching that particular item further. I am more concerned with solving my next major health problem, namely, getting rid of the remaining 50 excess lbs I’m still carrying around. After fairly easily losing over 100 lbs, I’m finding it inexplicably difficult to dump the remainder of the excess, even with Dr. Eades 6wc.

          BTW, “hating the vagaries of full sugar sodas” is also somewhat outside the realm of science. Let us merely OBSERVE and VERIFY the bad effects, and leave “hating” to the True Believers. I consider myself a scientist, not a disciple.

          txchlinstr wrote on November 6th, 2009
    • How’s the wife?

      Allan Wright wrote on November 30th, 2009
      • My wife lost about 80 lbs on low-carb, and did successfully get off both diabetes meds. But was still more than 90 lbs overweight. After some deliberation, she chose R-Y gastric bypass, and was able to lose down to within 10 lbs of her goal weight and keep it there.

        Unfortunately, she is now addicted to chronic cardio exercise, and she has to be extremely careful about eating to avoid “dumping”, but it’s better than being more than 170 lbs overweight. I have not followed in her footsteps. Still trying to dump that last 50 lbs via diet.

        TX CHL Instructor wrote on November 30th, 2009
  4. If Dante were writing THE DIVINE COMEDY today there would be a circle in Hell reserved for doctors who corrupt health for profit, who operate for profit, and who ignore real science for profit.

    Gordon wrote on November 5th, 2009
  5. Check this out. Did a Google on “Syndrome X.” They do accurately portray the insuling problem. BUT, one of the ways they list to prevent Syndrome X is to eat a diet full of WHOLE GRAINS!!! ARRRHHHGGGGHH!! Mark, what do we do?

    Craig wrote on November 5th, 2009
    • Tell people about the Primal Blueprint! 😉

      Mark Sisson wrote on November 5th, 2009
  6. Where on the AAFP website is the news about Coke sponsorship?

    Randall Sexton wrote on November 8th, 2009
  7. Great post Mark! I was laughing the whole time. I really don’t know why anyone would even want to drink sodas and other sugary drinks at all! With all the contradicting info out there the companies should be out of business. Guess they’re just really good at covering things up. I also read the Truvia link. I think I’ll stay away from any sweeteners including sugar, the occasional honey though!

    Joel M wrote on November 10th, 2009
  8. There’s problem with the language too. “Part of a healthy, well-balanced diet” or “in moderation”. Which is really code for “We know you’re going to eat bad things anyway, but this gives you an excuse to say it’s only ‘part’.”

    paleo_piper wrote on November 11th, 2009
  9. wow. well said, mark! not that I don’t take a second thought on any advices the ADA or any of those health orgs are given already, knowing who’s behind them definitely helps me relaxing more about ignoring their BSs..

    riceball wrote on November 14th, 2009
  10. ok, so I know we are talking about AAFP…but now they are trying to make soda “healthy” by adding antioxidents!

    I saw this on a comercial, looked at my husband and we both rolled our eyes and then changed the channel…sheesh.

    Kristi wrote on November 18th, 2009
  11. You know, I have cooked and worked in restaurants for over 20 yrs…It has been a long road..but I first read the “Origin Diet” and a few bells went off..Then I loved Elsan Haas..but something wasn’t quite right..The Eades’ Protein we go!Now we are getting somewhere! This was all in he 90’s. I have been spying on Marks blog for a very long time! Thank You! I love cooking healthfully and because of my industry background, it is really easy for me to cook REAL food. I have wanted to share this with people interested in cooking healthfully for themselves, but the more I looked into conventional nutrition…I will NOT do it…Holistic nutrition, possibly..$$$$$=studies=work and I can not play that game! Nutitionists in nursing homes, Dr.’s offices and most wellness centers preach…you guessed it…whol grains and low fat! What’s a Paleo/Primal Mom to do? I really want to break into the wellness field and use my talents..: I am one of the most personable people you will ever meet..and I can cook a steak like nobody’s business. And I think grains suck. HFCS too. Artificial sweetners? Not for us. Big Pharma? Suck it! LOL

    Julie Aguiar wrote on November 23rd, 2009
  12. Sorry, I get a little carried away..My actual issue was with the giants..Coke, Splenda, Aspartame,AAFP, McDonald’s, Kellogg etc…What exactly will it take to not only shift CW..that will come..but to change the economics? Ever?

    Julie Aguiar wrote on November 23rd, 2009
  13. WELL SAID . . . The fox is watching the hen house, no? I am angry that these supposed “all knowing,” “HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS” have succumbed to these GIGANTIC MONEY MAKING MACHINES known as corporate America and will gladly sacrifice our health in the greedy quest for a buck. They take us for suckers and I guess we are. Don’t fall for marketing schemes that tell us that Sodium nitrite, HFCS, BUTYLATED HYDROXYANISOLE,POTASSIUM BROMATE, etc. are okay. OKAY . . . these products just make production, shelf life, transportation, presentation, sales, better for the company. They DO NOT CARE ABOUT OUR HEALTH. PERIOD.

    Ginger wrote on April 7th, 2010
  14. Is it really so hard to give up sweeteners? Just askin’…

    Nico wrote on July 16th, 2010
  15. I love Coca-Cola. It’s even better at McDonalds with fries, ketchup and a greasy- meaty, bread-packed stomach-bloating Big Mac!
    But thanks to my research and sites like this one all that “type” of food has gone into my indulgence pile to be eaten omly once a quarter, instead of once a week, or even (gulp!) twice per week. I now walk by the beautifully curved bottles of Coke in my house and proudly tell myself, “I love you, but once every 90 days and only one bottle!” Luckily the nail dissolving substance will still be good until 2013, so no need to dump the bottles. I know, when Coke Inc. talks about “healthy” USE they mean one bottle every other day: Those babes at Coke like to smile that pearly-white, bleached, marketing-buzz, green-tea without sugar, size-zero smile when they say that blurb about “part of a nutritious diet” But we all know the truth and it’s not just the Coke, it’s the other zillions of toxins we don’t even think about of which we can read here for hours. So after diet optimization, when asked if I want to represent Coke for 1 million US per year I will do it! But ONLY if I’m allowed to tell the truth about my intake! Otherwise I’ll take that zero cash all-the green-tea-you-can-drink sponsorship from the organic tea growers of the lower Yakima valley!

    Edgar Edgar wrote on October 9th, 2011

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