Coca-Cola has funded medical research that shifts blame for obesity away from poor dietary choices, according to a new report. This revelation is driving an ongoing debate in the wellness community about the role of diet versus exercise.

In November 2012, the world's largest producer of sugary beverages donated three million dollars to the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance. This grant was aimed at establishing a wellness program in the Chicago-based facility. Critics of the company contend the corporation is purposely emphasizing the benefits of exercise, while downplaying the role of calorie reduction in maintaining a healthy weight.

The Global Energy Balance Network is another organization promoting the benefits of physical exertion while de-emphasizing the role of caloric intake, which has also been funded by Coca-Cola, according to the New York Times.

"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," Steven N. Blair, vice-president of the Global Energy Balance Network stated in a video announcing the formation of the group.

Organizers of the group admitted they received 1.5 million dollars from Coca-Cola to form the group, aimed at health research and advocacy. The domain name for the group, gebn.org, is registered to the Coca-Cola company. However, corporate officials say they did this just because the organizers of the network did not know how to register a website name. Coca-Cola has also reportedly donated almost four million dollars to projects involving two of the networks leaders, Steven Blair of the University of South Carolina and the dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health, Gregory Hand.

"So Carolina Prof, Steve Blair, Connects Energy Balance Experts World-Wide w/ New Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN)," Rhona Applebaum, Chief Science and Health Officer for Coca-Cola, tweeted.

Many health professionals lay part of the blame for the current obesity epidemic and instances of type 2 diabetes on the popularity of sugary drinks.

In recent years, consumption of full-calorie sodas by American adults has been reduced by 25 percent. Many communities around the United States are seeking to tax sugary beverages to raise money for increasing health care costs.

The revelation that the massive soft drink manufacturer is funding these groups is creating controversy on social media. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola continues to deny their contributions to these groups have any influence on the scientific opinions of the organizations.

 

Photo: Asta Adamonyte | Flickr

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