Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Best "Science" Money Can Buy

Just when you think science has made a definitive statement, it seems like they switch it up on you. First, it's low-fats, then it's no fat, then it's some fats are good, then it's fats are okay, it's sugar that's the problem. Sometimes, these switch-ups are a natural progression of scientific inquiry; as more and better data becomes available, science will, as it must, change its consensus. Confusing for the rest of us, unfortunately, but, at least, it's the result of honest science.

And then there's the other kind. The kind of switch-up that's not made by scientists, and honesty has nothing to do with it. I'm speaking now about a new nonprofit organization called the Global Energy Balance Network, dedicated to creating "balance" in the way we think about diet, disease prevention, and exercise.

The group's vice president, Steven N. Blair, has this to say about its goals:

“Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh, they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ — blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on, and there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.” 

Uh … No compelling evidence? Doesn't he know that we know exactly how many calories are burned by exercising, and that the damage caused by bad food habits (heart disease, liver disease, etc.) can't be exercised away? Maybe not! Here's a tweet he made recently:

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for fitness, I'm all for exercise. But to claim it's more important than eating healthy is just plain mind-boggling in this day and age. Where did this Global Energy Balance Network and it's cockamamie ideas come from, anyway?

Maybe the following quotes from a piece in The New York Times can shed a little light on that:

"Coca-Cola, the world’s largest producer of sugary beverages, is backing a new “science-based” solution to the obesity crisis: To maintain a healthy weight, get more exercise and worry less about cutting calories … Coke has made a substantial investment in the new nonprofit [Global Energy Balance Network]. [Coke] had donated $1.5 million last year to start the organization … Since 2008, the company has also provided close to $4 million in funding for various projects to two of the organization’s founding members: Dr. Blair, a professor at the University of South Carolina whose research over the past 25 years has formed much of the basis of federal guidelines on physical activity, and Gregory A. Hand, dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health."

So an organization supposedly dedicated to improving public health is, in fact, merely a prop, and the professors involved, merely puppets, for a soda giant.

Why the creepy clandestine approach, Coke?

"Health experts say [it is] part of an effort by Coke to deflect criticism about the role sugary drinks have played in the spread of obesity and Type 2 diabetes. They contend that the company is using the new group to convince the public that physical activity can offset a bad diet despite evidence that exercise has only minimal impact on weight compared with what people consume."

This sort of behavior by corporations is nothing new, of course. In marketing parlance, it's called having a "front" organization--that's right, just like the mob. Tobacco companies are probably the most notorious for the tactic, frequently using front organizations and doctors to advocate their arguments about tobacco use. One less-than-subtle example:

Click on the image to marvel at the fine print.

It'll be interesting, won't it, to see who comes out of the woodwork to parrot the Global Energy Balance Network's new fitness-over-diet mantra. When you see them, you'll know whose money is in their pocket, and whose best interest they really have at heart.

As for the rest of us, we should feel pretty proud of ourselves. We've been so good at avoiding their products that they've resorted to crazy puppet show theater to lure us back. 

Shame on you, Coca-Cola. Shame on you.

Thanks to Friend of the Blog, Michael, for sending along the NYT article.

No comments:

Post a Comment