Brain and Body

Chief Scientist of Anti-Obesity Organization Funded by Coca-Cola Steps Down

December 3, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Six packs of Coca Cola in glass bottles.
Photo credit: Mike Mozart

Evidence of a hidden pro-Coke agenda has been exposed.

Back in August, an anti-obesity organization called The Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) took some major heat after The New York Times exposed that the organization was being funded by the sugary beverage giant Coca-Cola. The exposure was followed by months of criticism, which has now led to the disbandment of GEBN as well as news that the organization’s lead scientist will be stepping down.

In the wake of the controversy, health officials across the nation argued that Coke had funded GEBN with intent to play down the common association of the company’s sugary drinks with obesity. Of course, GEBN insisted that the soda giant had “no input” on the anti-obesity research, but a report published by the Associated Press last week reveals that there appears to have been some foul play behind the scenes.

SEE ALSO: Obesity: Candy, Soda, Fast Food Aren’t to Blame, Study Finds

Based on obtained emails between Coca-Cola and GEBN group leaders, the AP reports that Coke was in fact “instrumental in shaping the group.” Not only did the company hand-pick the group leaders, but AP writes that Coke actually edited the GEBN mission statement and suggested content for the organization’s website.

GEBN’s website now reads: “Effective immediately, GEBN is discontinuing operations due to resource limitations.”

In the midst of GEBN’s exposure, the anti-obesity organization’s chief health and science officer, Rhona Applebaum, has decided to step down. In the latest report by The New York Times, the publication said that, in an email exchange between Applebaum and James Hill, GEBN’s president, Hill suggested a study to focus blame on the rise in obesity on a lack of exercise and steer the blame away from the rise in consumption of Coca-Cola’s drinks.

What is Coke’s response to all of this? Sandy Douglas, the president of Coke North America, said he believed Coke had good intentions and that the goal was to try and be helpful, according to the AP. He says, "If folks are saying the moderate consumption of our beverages is causing obesity, then we're going to argue with that, because it's not true.”

This case sheds light upon an unsettling issue within the field of scientific research. One of the best things about science is that it’s based on truths that can be reproduced, not “truths” that can be bought.

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