Coca Cola Says Fizzy Drinks not Responsible for Obesity
ELEANOR HALL: 3,000 experts on the world's epidemic of fat have descended
on Sydney today to discuss the latest research on obesity.
But before the congress even got underway there was breakfast, brought
to you by the Coca Cola corporation.
And the soft drink giant has its own scientist on the floor of the
congress too. Doctor John Foreyt, who admits to receiving funding
from Coca Cola, will tell the conference that fizzy drinks have been
victimised in the debate.
Conor Duffy prepared this report.
CONOR DUFFY: The spiralling consumption of high-sugar, high-energy
soft drinks has been a hot topic in the world of obesity research,
and particularly regarding the spread of weight gain among teenagers.
But now the soft drink industry is hitting back with its own science.
Among the 3,000 experts meeting in Sydney for a world congress on
the international obesity epidemic is the American Dr John Foreyt.
Chaperoned by Coca Cola company representatives as the conference
opened today, Dr Foreyt will address the congress about what he's
learnt in his time at the Behavioural Medicines Research Centre in
In short, Dr Foreyt says soft drinks have copped too much criticism
in the war on fat.
JOHN FOREYT: I think the answer to really looking at a healthy lifestyle
is balance and variety and moderation, and any time you pick out a
single culprit you're going to really be in trouble, because, you
know, obesity and health risks are all associated with multiple factors.
CONOR DUFFY: And Dr Foreyt is dismissive of research suggesting that
as much as half the 300 excess calories Americans consume every day
come from sweetened drinks.
JOHN FOREYT: Well, calories are calories are calories, so you want
to look at balance, and if people are getting their calories from
one source, too many calories, people can get in trouble, but that
caloric source can be anything. So you really have to look at your
overall diet. I think that's still the bottom line.
CONOR DUFFY: But Dr Foreyt isn't just an independent researcher. He
freely admits his links to the Beverage Institute, which is funded
by Coca Cola, and laughs off suggestions his presence at the conference
could be likened to a tobacco industry representative at a lung cancer
JOHN FOREYT: (Laughs) Oh, absolutely not. No, No. I think the bottom
line for most people, they're very reasonable, they have good judgement
and commonsense, which means balance and variety and moderation in
all things, including diet and physical activity.
CONOR DUFFY: Susie Burrel from the Dieticians Association of Australia
agrees that the food industry has a role at the conference, but says
sugary drinks are a major problem in the battle against the bulge.
SUSIE BURREL: It's an important factor we do target in weight management.
So we do try and limit them, we do refer to sugar-sweetened drinks
as occasional party-type foods. They're not everyday foods, particularly
for children, and they're one aspect that we do target.
CONOR DUFFY: The Director of the Australasian Society for the study
of obesity, Tim Gill, says industry-sponsored research is becoming
far too common. He says companies are using it to muddy the waters
on obesity debates.
TIM GILL: Companies have been able to bring together a panel of experts
whose views suit their particular promotional needs, and so that's
always a degree of concern. That's not necessarily to reflect badly
on the individuals who give those presentations, because quite often,
you know, they have an honest belief that that's the case.
But when you've got a lot of money and you're able to get together
the right sort of panel and, more importantly, promote the information
they're presenting, what it tends to do is confuse a picture where
there is generally a degree of consensus.
And I think soft drinks is one of those areas where there's pretty
much a consensus that soft drinks have been a major contributor to
the increased calorie intake, particularly amongst teenagers, and
that there's a huge potential to address this problem by reducing
soft drink intake.
ELEANOR HALL: And that's the Director of the Australian Society for
the Study of Obesity, Tim Gill, ending that report from Connor Duffy.
And Dr Gill will also be at that week-long obesity congress, along
with scientists funded by Coca Cola.
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