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Universities Should Not Lend Names to Coca-Cola "Energy Balance" Network

Statement of CSPI President Michael F. Jacobson

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Were it not for the physician and blogger Yoni Freedhoff, and an exposé in the New York Times, the public might still be in the dark about Coca-Cola’s covert effort to set up an academic-sounding institution devoted to “energy balance.” The obvious purpose of that “Global Energy Balance Network” is to distract attention away from diabetes and other soda-related diseases and instead give the false impression that the calories from soda can simply be “balanced” away with physical activity.

Research shows that soda consumption contributes to diabetes independent of weight gain. And one recent study found that, worldwide, sugar drink consumption contributes to 184,000 deaths each year, including 25,000 Americans. Drinking one or two sugary drinks per dayincreases one’s risk of type 2 diabetes by 25 percent. Focusing on “energy balance” is designed to advance the public-relations objectives of Coca-Cola and the rest of the soda industry, not science.

We hope that the University of Colorado, the University of South Carolina, and West Virginia University will take steps to protect the public’s health and sever their ties to this Coke-funded “network,” which has become a national laughingstock. A good first step would be for the schools to comply with the request of Senator Richard Blumenthal to publicly disclose all of their grant arrangements with Coca-Cola and ensure that research on their campuses will be “unbiased and unbought, impartial and objective.”

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).