Coke-Funded Anti-Obesity Group Goes The Way Of Crystal Pepsi

The notice posted Monday night to the website.

The notice posted Monday night to the website.

The Global Energy Balance Network, a supposed anti-obesity organization that was heavily criticized for not only receiving more than $1 million from Coca-Cola but for attempting to downplay the role of sugary drinks in the current obesity epidemic, has vanished from the Earth like a failed new soda product.

“Effective immediately, GEBN is discontinuing operations due to resource limitations,” reads a notice posted on the organization’s website. “We appreciate the commitment to energy balance that the membership has demonstrated since our inception, and encourage members to continue pursuing the mission ‘to connect and engage multi-disciplinary scientists and other experts around the globe dedicated to applying and advancing the science of energy balance to achieve healthier living’.”

GEBN, which stressed the importance of proper diet and exercise in fighting obesity, came out of nowhere in recent years thanks to purportedly no-strings-attached funding from Coca-Cola. However, the group’s motives were questioned when its leadership made public statements that seemed to directly echo beverage industry talking points.

The organization, based at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, claimed that it was the media, and not science, that had linked the obesity problem to high-calorie foods, declaring that there is “virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause.”

In early November, under increased scrutiny over its funding, the Colorado med school returned $1 million to Coca-Cola, claiming that the cola giant’s involvement had “distracted attention from its worthwhile goal.”

Last week, reporters unearthed e-mails between GEBN leadership and Coca-Cola execs showing just how not hands-off Coke had been.

In 2012, before Coca-Cola handed over the funds, a company exec made it clear to GEBN’s future president that it was “non-negotiable” that he collaborate with private industry. The company then provided researchers with talking points about a Coke-funded study they were working on.

More explicitly, the e-mails showed how Coca-Cola considered this no different than running a political campaign and that it was hoping to make GEBN “the place the media goes to for comment on any obesity issue.”

Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent has acknowledged that maybe there could have been more transparency about this whole thing. Meanwhile, the exec who sent many of the above-referenced e-mails has tendered her retirement.

[via AP]

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