Last week I was on a greatly needed vacation in the interior of British Columbia, visiting with family, playing the odd round of golf, and sleeping in until after the sun came up. It was glorious. But then upon returning to my normal daily grind, I discover this little article HERE featured in USA Today’s money section, where they interviewed Coca Cola’s CEO of “sparkling beverages,” about New York mayor Bloomberg’s recent policy to limit the sale of fountain drink sizes to only 16 ounces to help curb obesity.
This could be considered one of the most forward-thinking decisions a government has ever made regarding the health and well-being of its’ constituents. CEO Katie Bayne didn’t think so.
What followed within the interview was one of the most blatant examples of a corporation spinning information in their own favour and closing their eyes to any facts that may hurt their own product since the creation of light beer and the slogan “same great taste.”
Her statement that “a calorie is a calorie” in defending people’s choice to include a sugary drink in their diet would make any nutritionist want to throw things at other things very hard in a fit of rage and blood lust unmatched since Meatload was on Celebrity Apprentice. She must not have seen THIS ARTICLE comparing isocaloric diets of different parts carbs, saturated fats, and proteins, and looked at things like weight loss, cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin sensitivity. It showed weight loss was similar, but the low carb high saturate fat diet reduced bad cholesterol, improved triglycerides, improved insulin sensitivity, and had a greater impac ton long-term reduction of risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Maybe she hadn’t seen THIS METANALYSIS that that showed a positive correlation to increased intake of sugar sweetened beverages and obesity. In fact the relationship was almost linear.
When asked if she felt people drinking a lot of sugary drinks could possibly get addicted, her response was “There is no scientific evidence.” REALLY?? Maybe she missed THIS STUDY, comparing the dopamine release of rats who were fed normal rat chow diets, rat chow plus sugar, and higher sugar diets showed that those rats given higher sugar diets had positive changes in their dopamine release and neurochemical alterations similar to someone who was addicted to opiates like heroin and cocaine.
Maybe she didn’t see THIS STUDY where they showed withdrawal symptoms like a drop in body temperature, behavioural alterations, and weight weight gain, which is again consistent with opiate withdrawal.
Gone are the days when a corporation can spin a feature that may be against them into their favour by preying on people’s inability to find facts that can refute their claims. There’s open access to PubMed, MedLine, and any research you could imagine, which means if you say something as groundless as “there’s no scientific research” for something as blatantly obvious as a high intake of sugary drinks causing a host of health issues, you deserve to have a lot of negative comments at the bottom of your article.
Now, if she had come out and said that yes, a high intake of sugary beverages could lead to obesity and that she supported the consumption of Coca Cola with moderation, as a treat instead of something to solely rely on for hydration, I could have put a little more faith in humanity. She made a good point that if her son has just finished playing 3 hours of lacrosse, he could probably benefit from drinking Powerade, which since lacrosse is a highly glycolytic event could benefit from a fast-acting source of sugar. The downside to this is that some reports show that as much as 60% of the population could be considered sedentary, getting less than 30 minutes of upright mobility each day, a higher carb intake is pretty much the WORST thing they could use to get them through the day.
Aside from the fact that the drinks contain enough sugar to make toddler force a day-care worker hyperventilate, the main type of sugar used in most North American bottler is high fructose corn syrup. Table sugar, a combination of glucose and fructose, has a glycemic index of 60-65, whereas high fructose corn syrup has a glycemic index of 85-92, meaning it will spike blood sugars much more than the equivalent dose of table sugar.
Compare this to bottlers in Mexico who primarily use regular sugar in their bottlings, as evident by THIS ARTICLE from Consumer Reports. While I’m sure the use of high fructose corn syrup is a lot cheaper, the health risks of having a high dose of carbohydrate that can rapidly and dramatically spike someone’s blood sugar to near dangerous levels should raise a few eyebrows among senior management, and maybe persuade them to use another sweetener, one which is already being used in other locations not too far away, but alas that’s not the case.
Interestingly, when asked how much Coke she personally drinks in a day, she said she has about 4-5 “diet” Coke beverages, meaning she doesn’t have the sugar, but has some serious intake of acesulfame potassium.
In all honesty, I can see why she was trying to protect her brand, but she could have taken one for the team on this and said something along the lines of “you know what? Too much of anything isn’t good for you including our product. If you have too much lobster, or too many Mercedes Benz, or watch too much Army of Darkness, or do too much deadlifting, that shit’s gonna catch up with you!!” I could have more respect for her if she were to drop some knowledge bombs on an interviewer like that.
Maybe that’s why I’m not the spokesperson for an international sparkling beverage company.