Coke denies any role in the obesity epidemic – what a joke

Coke denies any role in the obesity epidemic – what a joke

There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity,” says Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola’s president of sparkling beverages in North America, in an exclusive interview with the Detroit Free Press and USA Today as published on June 8, 2012.  The two parts that made me laugh the hardest were “president of sparkling beverages” (what does that mean?) and “no scientific evidence” (what planet are you on?). 

It seems now that in marketing and press releases; up is down and down is up eh?

Follow the cigarette company’s lead – deny everything
Everybody knows that sugary soft/fizzy/energy/cola/soda type drinks raise obesity and increase your risk of disease.  Even children know it but the world’s biggest soft drink makers tell us that they have nothing at all to do with our health problems.  This reminds me of the cigarette companies screaming “Smoking is good for the throat!  There is no evidence that smoking is dangerous!” when they had overwhelming evidence that smoking was deadly.  Some of the things that the ‘President of Sparkling Beverages’ said are such outrageous ‘marketing-speak’ I cannot believe she said it with a straight face.  I wonder what the job title used to be called, “Chief Sugar Water Salesperson” maybe?  Anyhow, I digress.  People can call themselves whatever they like, however transparent the title is.

Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola’s President of Sparkling Beverages quotes

Here are her quotes from the article, followed by my comments.

Katie:There is no scientific evidence that connects sugary beverages to obesity”.

Jason: Actually there is a mountain of research on it.  Study after study after study after study after study…  I could do a 20-page blog just on these studies alone. 

For example:

  • UCLA study said you are 27% more likely to be overweight if you drink just one fizzy drink daily.
  • A study on 43,000 participants followed for 22 years, by De Koning L, et al and researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health called “Sweetened beverage consumption, incident coronary heart disease, and biomarkers of risk in men” as published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association 2012 found that drinking just 12 ounces of soft drinks daily was associated with a higher risk of heart disease – regardless of other factors.
  • The Nurses’ Health Study, which Hu and colleagues published in 2009 on 89,000 women found that women who drank one or less than two sugary drinks per day had a 23% increased risk of a heart attack.
  • Harvard endocrinologist Dr. David Ludwig said that sweetened drinks “are the only specific food that clinical research has directly linked to weight gain”
  • A Westmead study by researchers at the University of Sydney covering over 2,000 12-year-olds found that the children who drank one or more soft drinks each day had increased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.  As reported by The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and WebMD Health News on April 4, 2012. 
  • Research by Zumin Shi, MD, PhD, of the University of Adelaide and colleagues on 16,907 participants found those drinking lots of soft drinks were 79% more likely to have respiratory disease of some kind.  Study by Shi Z, et al “Association between soft drink consumption and asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among adults in Australia” as published in Respirology on February 7, 2012.
  • Michael Jacobson from the Center for Science in the Public Interest said: “Soda pop is a quintessential junk food.  It’s just pure calories, and no nutrients.  It’s like a bomb in our diet.  And let’s not forget that soda has been linked to heart attacks, diabetes and osteoporosis, too”.

Back to the quotes from Katie then.

Katie: “Sugary drinks can be a part of any diet as long as your calories in balance with the calories out”.

Jason: Nope, this is completely incorrect.  Added sugar is not healthy in any way and is not part of my diet.

Katie: “Our responsibility is to provide drink in all the sizes that consumers might need”.

Jason: Nobody “needs” sugary drinks.  They may be conditioned or addicted to them but nobody needs them.  Using the word “responsibility” in this statement also somehow makes Coke seem like they care and are doing the right thing.  This is the worst and most manipulative use of 'marketing speak' I have ever read.

Katie: “There is a large portion of the population that relies on the carbohydrates and energy in our regular beverages”

Jason: No, they rely on them for a sugar hit.  They rely on them because they are there.  They rely on them because of the obesogenic (fat promoting) environment they are living in has them everywhere around them.  People are uneducated about the costs to their health long-term.  There are many people addicted to sugary drinks.  There are an awful lot of addicted smokers as well.  Using this logic, should we just make larger packets of cigarettes widely available and cheaper as well?

Katie: “When my son gets home from school, he needs a pick-up with calories and great taste”

Jason: No, he doesn’t “need” that pick-up.  You “give” him that pick-up.  You, as his mother, choose what you have at home in the house and what you feed him.  That is one of your roles as a parent.  I have raised 4 healthy children for 24 years without EVER giving them a sugary soft/fizzy cola drink after school.  Why would I give my children sugared, fizzy, empty calorie pop sodas when I can give them real, fresh, raw, living superfoods such as fruit, vegetables and other healthy snacks?  Why would I even consider it?  Why would I not give them the best food I can as their parent?

Katie: “My job as a parent is to guide them through the day to make the best choices.  If my son has lacrosse practice for three hours, we go straight to McDonald’s and buy a 32-ounce Powerade”

Jason: My kids have a variety of running in the mornings, playing at school all day, soccer after school, and then other jobs as well.  They do just fine (and one has already broken a Guinness World Record in a speed, strength and endurance event) on real foods without added sugar.  Why would I wear down their immune systems with foods like that?  Real bodies, real fitness built on real foods. 

Katie: “A calorie is a calorie”.

Jason: If a calorie is a calorie then let’s do this little experiment.  You get one identical twin to eat 2,000 calories every day for three months, solely from sugary breakfast cereals, hamburgers, French fries and the sugary fizzy drinks that Coke sells.  At the same time get the other genetically-identical twin to eat 2,000 calories per day for three months from fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and legumes and only water as liquids.  At the end we can test their blood pressure, their heart disease markers, their cholesterol, their body weight, their weight circumference, their fat levels, their pre-diabetes and metabolic syndrome markers and their nutritional levels.  You will see how a calorie is not a calorie and how sugar calories decimate the human system.  This is so obvious it is a joke to even debate it.  The ‘super-size’ soft drinks served in the USA today contain up to 87 teaspoons of sugar per container.  This is designed to be drunk fairly quickly as it comes without the ability to be sealed and with a straw poking out the top… 

Katie: “We don’t believe in empty calories.  We believe in hydration.  What our drinks offer is hydration.  That’s essential to the human body”

Jason: No, what water offers is hydration.  The pH of water is 7, which is very close to the human body’s pH of 7.4.  Cola has a pH of 2.5.  Not exactly hydrating is it?

Katie: “I might have a mini Diet Coke while cooking breakfast for my family.  After the kids leave for school, I go for a run and then have a Powerade Zero.  At work I may have a Diet Coke in the morning…  In the middle of the afternoon, I may have an 8-ounce Coke”.

Jason: I genuinely feel sorry for you.  Let’s meet up in 20 years and see how your health is after drinking three soda/fizzy/pop drinks a day.

Interviewer Question: “What do you say to those who believe that sugar — particularly in soft drinks — works on the brain like an addictive substance?”

Katie: “There is no scientific evidence”.

Jason: Yes there is.  Professor Hoebel of Princeton University said in 2008: “If bingeing on sugar is really a form of addiction, there should be long-lasting effects in the brains of sugar addicts.  Craving and relapse are critical components of addiction, and we have been able to demonstrate these behaviours in sugar-bingeing rats in a number of ways.  In certain models, sugar-bingeing cause’s long-lasting effects in the brain and increases the inclination to take other drugs of abuse, such as alcohol.  After receiving a dose of amphetamine normally so minimal it has no effect, they became significantly hyperactive.  The increased sensitivity to the psychostimulant is a long-lasting brain effect that can be a component of addiction.  Our work provides links between the traditionally defined substance-use disorders, such as drug addiction, and the development of abnormal desires for natural substances”.

Professor Michael Cowley, director of the Monash obesity and diabetes institute said: “There is definitely good evidence that the pathways in the brain that are activated by drugs of addiction are activated by foods.  Just like drugs of addiction, there are foods that can be addictive to people.  If you take a cocaine addict and show them pictures of cocaine paraphernalia, then the ‘reward pathway’ in their brain will light up very strongly.  A similar thing would be going on for a chocolate addict…some people do seem to have addictive behaviours with their food…”

In 1900 the average US citizen ate 29 pounds of sugar each year.  By 2008 it was 129 pounds per year, with teenagers reaching 160 pounds, and rising.  This will be similar in New Zealand, Australia and the UK.  In 2008, researchers at Princeton University, led by Professor Hoebel, claimed the final pieces of evidence necessary to prove the existence of sugar addiction in animal studies. 

They confirmed three out of the three elements of addiction “increased intake”, “signs of withdrawal” and “craving and relapse”, associated with sugar, and its underlying mechanism.  The researchers restricted the rats’ food while they slept, and then for four hours after waking.  Then they provided a 10% sugar solution alongside the food, on which they would subsequently binge.  After just four weeks on the high sugar diet, the rats’ brains had adapted to the higher levels of dopamine released.  This was proven by measurement of the reduced number of dopamine receptors.  Alongside this, the number of opioid receptors had increased. 

Even after removing the sugar, the researchers found that the rats were willing to work harder in order to get to the added sugar and consumption levels then again, went up.  There were clear changes in the rat’s brain functions and addictive behaviour.

Interviewer Question: “Critics say Coke is pushing sugary drinks in China and India and will cause obesity there just like here”

Katie: “Every person in those countries is different and should be able to choose what’s right for them”

Jason: Yes, what a convenient answer.  Use the old cliché “freedom of choice” when in actual fact you market a sugar drink to poor uneducated people and tell them “This is what thin, sexy, rich and successful people drink”.  To me this is disgraceful, unethical and makes me ashamed to be a Westerner when we are advertising and selling this poison to people who have no idea of what it is going to do to them.

Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola’s president of sparkling beverages summed up Coke’s attitude in this interview
No, they weren’t kidding.  Yes, they think we believe them.  Mayor Bloomberg’s deputy press secretary, Samantha Levine, answered the double-speak marketing with a simple and powerful response “The fact remains, sugary beverages are a key driver of the obesity crisis that is killing 5,800 New Yorkers and costing the city $4 billion annually”.

Why are the soft drink makers’ saying these ridiculous things?
Marion Nestle, Nutrition Professor at New York University, had the last word when asked, and summed the whole reason for the ‘double-speak marketing hogwash’ that we have been fed on this topic, when it is really all about profit and money and fear of losing a position of power. 

She said “They’re in an awful bind.  They sell expensive sugar water.”

History will look back at this time and we will shake our heads at what we allowed to go on.  Companies’ shoving sugary drinks down our children’s throats everywhere the kids turn.  Just like cigarette companies using doctors to tell us that smoking was healthy, beneficial, good for the throat and not dangerous. 

Mark my words, this will all come back to bite us where it hurts, with heart disease, cancer and diabetes rates in our children rising dramatically over the next two decades, affecting their fertility, longevity and mortality.

Katie Bayne quotes taken from an interview reported by Detroit Free Press and USA Today on June 8, 2012.

The full interview with Katie Bayne is here:


Posted: Thursday 28 June 2012