Industry groups including PepsiCo and Coca-Cola helped fund scientific research that claims diet drinks are better than water at helping individuals lose weight. The study was led by Bristol University's biological psychology Professor Peter Rogers. ILSI Europe also backed the said study which highlighted the benefits of the diet drinks.
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo representatives likewise worked on the energy balance and eating behavior team wherein the study's lead author is also its co-chairman. Bristol's findings were against the conclusions of other independent studies that linked weight gain to diet drinks.
Despite the review of more than 5,500 papers, Bristol's findings were based on only three studies that compared the weight-reducing effects of diet drinks and water. Two of these studies found no substantial effects in weight loss. One paper, which was funded by the American Beverage Association, revealed that consumers of diet drinks had higher chances of losing weight compared to those who drank water.
"To suggest that diet drinks are [healthier] than drinking water is laughable unscientific nonsense. If you want good science you cannot allow corporate sponsorship of research," said National Obesity Forum advisor and cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra.
Bristol stands by their findings. A Bristol spokesperson said the study was published in a peer-reviewed journal which indicates that the findings were examined by other experts. The university's spokesperson reiterated that the study was funded by a variety of bodies which include the European Union, ILSI Europe and the National Health Service.
The study was published in the International Journal of Obesity journal in November 2015. However, the published review did not include that some of the co-authors received fees of about £750 or more than $1,000 each. In the study's press release, Bristol University did not reveal that the research received industry funding. The university said the information was left out due to "reasons of space" in the press release.
In 2015, the University Of Colorado School of Medicine reimbursed Coca-Cola their $1 million grant after the media attacked the funding created an advocacy group called the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN) that modulated the link between soda consumption and obesity.
The nonprofit group was created to propel the idea that people spend a lot of energy and time worrying about what they eat and drink instead of spending energy and time on fitness activities. Several media outlets said the advocacy group wash trying to shift obesity cause from fast food, sugary drinks and fast food.
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