Coca-Cola's work with scientists to downplay the role sugar plays in contributing to obesity has been called a 'low point in this history of public health.'
The beverage company donated millions of dollars to a team of researchers at a non-profit claiming to look into causes of excess weight gain in the US.
However, the team ended up being a 'front group' for Coca-Cola and promoted the idea that it was a lack of exercise, not a bad diet, that was the primary driver of the US obesity epidemic.
Researchers now say the non-profit GEBN was 'front group' for Coca-Cola to promote that a lack of exercise, not a bad diet or sugar, is driving the US obesity epidemic (file image)
For the analysis, published in Public Health Nutrition, researchers from the University of Oxford; the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; the University of Bocconi in Milan, Italy; and US Right to Know teamed up.
They looked at more than 18,000 pages of emails between the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, West Virginia University, and the University of Colorado.
Both universities were part of Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), claiming to be a non-profit organization studying obesity, which ran from 2014 to 2015.
But academics now say the group was created by Coke to minimize links between obesity and sugary drinks.
Coca-Cola directly funded GEBN, contributing at least $1.5 million by 2015, and distributed millions more to GEBN-affiliated academics to conduct research.
'Coke used public health academics to carry out classic tobacco tactics to protect its profits,' said Gary Ruskin, the executive director of US Right to Know
'It's a low point in the history of public health and a warning about the perils of accepting corporate funding for public health work.'
There were two main strategies, with the first being information and messaging.
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