Earlier this week, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) published an open letter to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) asking the government organization to stop its affiliation with The Coca Cola Company. From CSPI’s press release:
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute should not partner with Coca-Cola to raise awareness of heart disease among women…overweight and obesity are prime risk factors for heart disease, and the agency shouldn’t be bolstering the dismal reputation of the Coca-Cola Company, the world’s biggest manufacturer of obesigenic soft drinks
…Supermodel Heidi Klum is described on the government web site as the “Diet Coke heart health ambassador.”
…”Coke has long sought to affiliate with or co-opt health groups, and associate its brand with athletes and models. I fervently hope that NHLBI officials understand that letting Coke bask in their agency’s good reputation does American hearts far more harm than good.” read more…
What you need to know:
This is not the first nor last sponsorship of health organizations by the Coca Cola company. Just a few months ago we wrote about the $600,000 contribution to the American Association of Family Physicians, to be used “to educate consumers about the role their products can play in a healthy, active lifestyle.” Yeah, right.
If you’re thinking, this is OK, Diet Coke does not contribute to obesity and heart disease, you may want to reconsider:
1. Our body gets confused by artificial sweeteners that may actually promote weight gain.
2. We’re “Infantilizing” our taste sense and as a result natural sweets like fruit aren’t as appetizing.
3. The long term health effects of artificial sweeteners are unclear.
While Coke is just one example, what we’re seeing is a generally accepted norm. Non-profit organizations, and even government bodies, have to accept money from the very corporations that contribute to the maladies they are trying to prevent. Crazy no?
You may argue and say that unlike cigarettes, no one food can kill you, and what about fun factor. Sure thing, but a company that deals in good vibes and lifestyle should stick to sponsoring music events and beach parties, not health and diet related associations.
Consider that even this country’s ultimate food and nutrition advisor – the American Dietetic Association – is sponsored by the likes of Coke and Mars. When I asked dietitians about this, some were agnostic while others pragmatically explained that there is no other way to fund research and educational activities that will ultimately benefit consumers.
Such is the state of affairs in America, 2010.
What to do at the supermarket:
It’s hard to quantify the compound effect of all these sponsorships, but you certainly can do your share to show you know better. Ignore the marketing messages on cans and boxes. Stick to the nutrition facts panel and ingredient lists of products you are considering. And specifically referring to soft drinks, whether sugary or non-caloric, did you know that you can save $500 for a family of four, just by switching to tap water?
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