'Childhood obesity is a complex epidemic, with lots of factors playing a role in the problem at the general and individual levels. Nevertheless, many weight problems can be boiled down to two driving forces: inactivity and poor eating choices.
When fingers started pointing to soft drinks maker Coca-Cola for playing a role in the problem, they decided to use science to fight back. Of course, it would be really difficult for any study, no matter how well-funded, to conclude that this sugar-laden product is healthy in any way and does not lead to weight gain, so they decided to take a far more underhanded approach.
Instead, they funded studies that place the blame for childhood obesity squarely on inactivity, ignoring the role that products like their own clearly play in this epidemic. A paper that was recently published by the Journal of Public Health Policy sheds some light on this dishonest approach.
Researchers looked at studies carried out as part of the International Study of Childhood Obesity, Lifestyle, and the Environment (ISCOLE), which was funded using a grant from Coca-Cola of $6.4 million – a small price to pay to protect their future profits.
Not surprisingly, the ISCOLE study concluded that physical inactivity is a key predictor of childhood obesity, seemingly clearing soda consumption as a culprit. In 24 of these studies, a conflict of interest disclosure says that the study was funded by the Coca-Cola Company, but goes on to declare: “The study sponsor has no role in study design, data collection, analysis, conclusions or publications. The only sponsor requirement was that the study be global in nature.”'
Read more: Conflict of interest: Coca-Cola funded more than 40 studies on childhood obesity – and they all failed to disclose the firm’s financial influence
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