Why Coca-Cola Loves the Calories model

posted in: Calories, Health and Nutrition | 36
Paid Shill for Coca Cola

Coca-Cola loves to promote the Calories In/ Calories Out (CICO) model. As one of the leading purveyors of sugar sweetened beverages, it constitutes a significant portion of the added sugars in the American diet.

Do you remember the story of the Twinkie diet? In 2010, Mark Haub, a researcher at the Kansas State University achieved notoriety as a follower of the Twinkie diet. For 10 weeks, Haub ate a Twinkie every three hours instead of a regular meal. He also ate Doritos, oreo cookies and sugary cereal. The catch was that he would only eat 1800 calories per day of some of the most fattening foods on the planet.

In those two months, he lost 27 pounds, his LDL cholesterol got better as did his triglycerides. This gained the attention of every mainstream media outlet, including CNN. This supported the view that it was all about the calories. You could eat whatever you wanted, but as long as you reduced calories, you could still lose weight.

There was only one thing missing from this story. One glaring omission. He was paid by Coca Cola. In 2016, in response to growing criticisms about transparency, Coke released a list of researchers who took money. Mark Haub was one of those researchers relying upon Coke’s deep pockets to fund him and his kids college fund. Chump change? Hardly. Coke spent a total of $2.3 million on these ‘health professionals and scientific experts’. On the press release, Coke stated that these experts ‘state their own views and disclose their relationship with The Coca-Cola Company’.

Except that they don’t. I have not yet seen any kind of footage where the dastardly Mark Haub has admitted to accepting money from Coke. He is willing to sacrifice your health for the sake of a few dollars. But he’s not proud of it. So, he never talks about it in the hundreds of interviews and articles in the media about his Twinkie diet. In academic circles, misrepresenting your source of funding, which has grave implications for results, is tantamount to lying under oath. The original story sounded a lot better than “Coca Cola pays a guy to do an unsupervised, unverified study and claims to lose weight eating Twinkies”.coke4

He was only outed because of bad behaviour on the part of the University of Colorado’s Global Energy Balance. What happened there? Well, Coca Cola gave millions of dollars to the University and doctors to set up a sham organization called the Global Energy Balance Network. With university blessings and ‘headed’ by doctors, it would be taken more seriously than, say a network called ‘The Coca Cola Consortium for Why Soda Doesn’t Make you Fat’ with the equally uncatchy acronym WSDMYF.

What Coke was trying to do was create a puppet organization where they could drive ‘research’ that ‘proved’ that sugar and soda does not make you fat. They carefully hid their name behind the university and the doctors, were well paid for their part.

Coca Cola’s influence is limitless. They even have the power to influence Hilary Clinton, and thus reach into the very stratospheres of power that are unreachable by mere mortals. Too bad they only use that influence to make more money and peddle more sugar water. Health of the nation? Who cares? Soda taxes are all the rage, right now. In April 2016 Hilary Clinton was a staunch backer until one mysterious day, she goes silent. No more rhetoric about supporting the soda tax.  Leaked emails show that on April 20, a Coca Cola exec wrote to Capricia Marshall (Clinton’s special assistant while First Lady) “Really??? After all we’ve done?”. Yes, Coke expected the Clinton campaign to roll over like a beaten dog. Which is exactly what they did. They were bought and paid for, and they knew it.coke2

The first part in deflecting blame is to find the appropriate scapegoat. So, if obesity is not due to sugar and soda, then what could be blamed instead? Well, the easiest target is calories. If you simply blame total calories, then eating salad and drinking Coke is equally fattening, as long as they are the same number of calories.

So, logically, you could eat a plate of cookies for dinner, or an equal number of calories as salad with olive oil and salmon, and both would be equal in terms of causing obesity. Except that common sense tells you that eating cookies for dinner every night will make you fat, and eating salad every night will make you skinny.

But calories makes the perfect scapegoat. There is no brand called ‘calories’. Nobody owns the trademark ‘calories’. Nobody makes food called ‘calories’. They are totally defenseless.

The second thing is to promote exercise as a good way to burn calories. This is a good way to shift the blame onto the victims. If you are overweight, it’s now YOUR fault, not Coke’s. The problem is not all the sugar you’ve been drinking, the problem is that you are not exercising enough. Of course, in the 1950’s people never exercised for fun, either and there was no obesity. And people also spent all day sitting in front of their desk working, too.

Once the shenanigans at the Global Energy Balance were revealed, Coke went into damage control mode. Dr. Hill, who had been greedily accepting the cash, insisted that Coke had no influence on his opinions as a researcher. This was clearly nonsense and called out by his peers, as a letter written by Dr. Willett of Harvard University accused him of spreading ‘scientific nonsense’. Of course it was nonsense. But it was lucrative nonsense.coke3

A series of emails obtained by the Associated Press also confirmed that rather than maintaining an arm’s length, Coke was actively involved in the group, including picking the groups leaders, crafting the mission statement, and logo. Dr. Hill, according to the New York Times also proposed a study to “help Coca Cola focus the blame for obesity on a lack of exercise and urged the company to pay for it”. Nice, Dr. Hill. You already knew the results of your study before you even did it?

As part of the fallout, Coca Cola increased the transparency of their funding and published a large list of places they were distributing cash. It is not altruism. It’s sponsorship. Plain and simple. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, representing the dieticians of America were on the take for millions of dollars. And so was Mark Haub, finally exposed as a fraud after all these years.

Just several days ago, in the New York Times, Anahad O’Connor wrote an article clarifying the conflicting studies on the link between sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) and obesity and type 2 diabetes. Over the years, many studies have been presented – some linking SSB and some refuting that link. What was the difference? Every single study refuting the link was funded by a soda company such as Coca Cola. Shocker…

Make no mistake. A big part of Big Soda’s game plan is to hoodwink the public that all calories are equally fattening. They’ve spent millions of dollars and decades doing just that. A calorie is a calorie. Sure. But that’s not my point. Are all calories equally fattening? Will eating cookies every day lead to the same weight gain as eating salad? Only a fool believes this. Don’t be that fool.

36 Responses

  1. Crazy how in the 60’s they paid scientists to try and mitigate the amount of harm sugar actually does to your body just to make the sugar industry more profitable

  2. Coca-cola isn’t the ONLY one up to this–check out Quaker Oats and cholesterol studies.

    • MachineGhost

      Actually the soluble fiber beta glucans in oats does lower cholesterol. But they didn’t know exactly what it was at the time they started marketing the propaganda (late 80’s?).

  3. Roger Bird

    I am willing to accept the possibility that Mark Taub was able to hold out at 1800 calories per day for 28 days. That would take enormous will power, but I willing to posit that he did it. But I doubt that he could continue at that pace for very long. And I am positive that it would have destroyed his health to continue. In fact, I doubt the whole thing; some dude tried to live off of McDonalds for like a month, and he is health was wrecked long before the month was up.

    Given the deception and destructive nature of his endeavor, I wish that he had continued.

    • That was Morgan Spurlock’s documentary “Supersize Me” about the all-McDonalds diet. He couldn’t make it the full month because his body was deteriorating so bad his doctor told him to just stop.

    • I’d follow that diet for a month if I got the same payoff loan. There are health benefits to a secure bank account lol.

    • Go watch “Fat Head” the documentary, which basically proves that the “Supersize Me” documentary was a fraud. It’s a very educational documentary on health and nutrition. You can find it on Netflix and Hulu, I believe. In fact, Tom Naughton, the creator of Fat Head, runs a blog. It’s a fantastic read for those interested in health and nutrition.

      • Going by memory, Tom Naughton actually did live off McDonalds for a month, and improved his weight and health biomarkers. He kept calories in check, though, unlike Morgan Spurlock who was packing them in on purpose.

        I agree a willpower-based low-Calorie, iso-Calorie diet is not sustainable for the vast majority of people.

  4. Nancy Latham

    I work for the largest grocery store. The back room of the stores are full of all kinds of soft drinks. During sporting events, they actually have extra trailers at the dock to hold all the soft drinks. Some stores that are very busy have Coke employees working around the clock to keep the shelves filled. I have always wondered if soft drinks were against the law, would the stores go broke?

  5. boris gomez

    While it’s true Haub reached a “healthy” bmi with his juknk food diet, he had a deadly 28% body fat.

    In addition, Warren Buffett, the investor billionaire that has a controlling interest in coke, claims that he eats 2,500 calories daily that include ice cream for breakfast and 5 cokes with potato sticks, and that his diet makes him happy. However, he looks like Yoda.

  6. Just for the sake of transparency I want to state Coca Cola unfortunately did not pay me when I tried 600 calories per day of pure sugar last August.

    It would be very interesting to know if Mark Haub did anything suspect in his study apart from the non disclosure or if it actually worked.

    This is a very interesting tidbit from the article above “Of course, in the 1950’s people never exercised for fun, either and there was no obesity. And people also spent all day sitting in front of their desk working, too.” Coca cola was also freely available back then and had been for several decades, but it came in much smaller serving sizes.

    Of course we know what happened with the era of supersizing. BOOM.

    • Deb Griffith

      It wasn’t just supersizing..it was High Fructose Corn Syrup that replaced the sugar. Yes, sugar is bad, but hfcs is much much worse.

      • “Yes, sugar is bad, but hfcs is much much worse.”

        No, it isn’t. It’s just cheaper, so there’s more of it in food, that’s the problem.

        Chemically, they’re about equally bad in excess quantity: table sugar is 50% fructose, 50% glucose, and the most common blend of HFCS to replace table sugar is 55% fructose, 45% glucose.

        So, it may be a little worse chemically, but not much. The problem is its low price and how, as a result, it is added in larger quantities to so many more foods.

    • Deb is right. Look at the growth of agricultural subsidies from the ’60s onward. Look at the Corn subsidies between 1956 and 2016. And the public schools did not push the “six-meals-a-day-or-you-waste-away” bull excrement. Anyone remember mom yelling at the kids about snacking in between meals?

  7. HFCS is vastly different than sugar and it’s been proven. In the 70’s and 80’s you would only be able to drink a can or so of soda sweetend with sugar, try it now with a throwback soda or one that uses only sugar. The body doesn’t recognized HFCS like it does sugar and one could finish a 2 liter of soda with no issue. That is the problem with soda since switching to the cheap sugar substitute!!!

    • MachineGhost

      Proven by whom? Most all of the studies in the literature show there is no physiological difference between ingesting sugar, HFCS and fructose. The latter only starts inflicting its unique form of damage when energy expenditure is in excess.

      • LoveLanvin

        BS. See Dr. Robert Lustig’s “Fat Chance”.
        Fructose and Sugar are metabolized differently.

  8. If you are overweight, it’s now YOUR fault, not Coke’s.

    That much is true, Coke hasn’t forced their product down anyone’s throat. I really don’t see this blaming the escaping horse for the barn door being open…
    Maybe should blame the ‘authority’ who left the barn door open. Along with all the medical ‘professionals’ who went along with the scam.
    Taxing soft drinks just further cements the deception that the escaping horse opened the barn door all by itself…all the while giving a pass to those who actually did open the door, the medical establishment who gives ‘expert’ advice to the regulators. Do more good to tax them for abusive advice…

  9. Coca Cola’s tactics were fully exposed in the UK’s ‘Times’ newspaper earlier this year. It showed how they paid scientists who then always concluded that sugar wasn’t too bad and that we were all just too lazy. Haub could do this idiotic diet for a month, but it would lead to rapid accumulation of visceral fat around the organs. Fructose is particularly bad for this. So, you could be thin and heading for serious illness. People like this are called TOFI. Thin on the outside but fat inside. The good news is that visceral fat reduces quite quickly when you stop eating sugar-laden junk.

    The tactics of Coca Cola disgust me. They are increasingly despised and deservedly so.

  10. sten bjorsell

    Slightly off topic, although our health is one common link. Another link is that what Coca-cola tried here is a mirror image of what for instance the GMO industry has already done successfully! The industry have sponsored professors for years (“adjungated” is the term to pay for/buy your “own” professor) in universities across the world. They can have several tasks but key reason to hire these titles by industry associated that is associated with mass sales/production is to shape public opinion through condoning GMO and its linked chemicals (Glyphosate, atrazine,…) by lending their support to that studies -usually paid for by same people that pay them- are sound. And when it sounds as if a Stanford professor is giving a professional scientific opinion, it is so much easier to be believed than if a same scientist labelled Monsanto scientist says exactly the same thing.
    This propaganda system is now going like a red thread through our societies, initially underpinned by politicians and many sensible people that agreed that research needs to be purpose driven and industry close. The resulting state cut backs today means that very few independent researchers are left, making it “feasible” or unfortunately often necessary to jump onto these kind of “money wheels” that CocaCola , food , chemical, pharmaceutical and of course medical industry offers to provide their twisted science, as still many of us still buy that “science” is better than adverts. As a result can with current corruption nearly all “industry sponsored science” be ignored as it cannot be trusted!

    The biotech industry studies that showed GMO to be safe were sponsored by the industry that made and marketed them. When it came to cancer safety, mice were fed the stuff too short time to possibly develop cancer, but paid professors were quick to opiniate that it was long enough.

    When independent Scottish and French scientists made longer studies and arrived at the “wrong results”, all hell broke lose and the paid professors can be compared to an orchestrated witch burning. The pusztai affair. The Seralini affair.
    Luckily enough some honest people saw through CocaColas attempt to mirror image the Biotech industry at an earlier stage.
    The propaganda (marketing) “value” of scientists with titles is that we usually ask for hard proof if ordinary people claim anything at all, but with professors we are usually inclined to accept a mere opinion, even when there is evidence against.
    A situation that is constantly exploited.

  11. Excellent post, Dr Fung. People should know and grasp that every study funded by the private sector needs to be discounted. In a profit-based economy, they will always try to corrupt the scientific process, because it is cheap compared to the returns.

    • in fact, here are some declarations fully supporting Dr Fung


    • Right, let’s forget that government funded studies kept the low fat nonsense going for decades. Anyone who dared question the dogma would immediately have their funding revoked and their careers ruined.

  12. He who pays the piper, calls the tune. Publicly, or privately funded. All one needs to do is look at the global warming thing…nothing gets publicly funded that doesn’t fit the propaganda.

    Look who’s prosecuting Dr Noakes…those self-governing ‘professional’ associations and councils are backed by the force of law. Guess who gave them that power…

  13. Excellent
    Thank you

  14. Mark Haub or as I refer to him “twinkie dude” is exactly the kind of reckless scientism that’s at the heart of why science is vearing so far of course.

    CICO might work for him. He’s obviously doesn’t have a serious weight problem.
    The problem with CICO isn’t that it doesn’t work. It’s that it stops working. It also seems to work for some people. And for some reason everyone thinks of problems as strictly binary. Probably why derivatives blow everyone’s mind.

    Also financial conflicts turn your brain to mush. One of my attempts at a career was selling life insurance. It’s amazing how these dudes REALLY BELIEVED that whole life was the answer for 99% of financial issues (rather then a speciality product applicable to maybe 1-5%) . Haub is the same deal but for CICO. It’s that little bit of accuracy that lures people in and allows them to believe CICO likes it’s some sort of religion.

    • CICO appeals to people because it’s simple and appears to make some sort of superficial sense. It also appeals to our sense of right and wrong and getting what we deserve. Fat is bad because it makes you fat is again wonderfully simple. And this wicked substance also blocks your arteries and causes heart disease. Beautifully simple and understandable. It’s all absurd but everyone thinks they understand what’s going on.

      Eat less and move more can be understood by anyone and Coca Cola have been ruthless in supporting the idea, which suits them nicely. Harmonal theories, blood glucose, raised insulin and fat storage are just more difficult. Eating fat is good for you? It took me a while to accept that one.

  15. thebigpicture

    In a similar way that you can’t understand obesity without understanding diet, you can’t understand our system without understanding the monetary system.

    Our monetary system is based upon fiat money and increasing debt. Debt must increase to infinity, otherwise our monetary system will fail.

    What does this have to do with anything? All large corporations are debt dependent, including a soda company. As well as the health industry. They use debt to build economies of scale. They use debt to increase sales, to increase profit, to pay back the debt. If they don’t, their debts can’t be paid back which means they go bankrupt, poof.

    Obese people are perfect for the system. They consume large amounts of food, the wrong types, and then when they get sick the healthcare system has them as recurring patients, which, again, is necessary to pay back debt.

    If we were healthy, half of all food companies would disappear, as would the tobacco and alcohol companies. Half of doctors and clinics and hospitals would shut down, and we would have massive unemployment in those fields. Health is not profitable. As such, it makes perfect sense that in a debt driven system, we are all unhealthy.

  16. It is not ll that different from cigarettes–people know it is bad for them, yet they still smoke. Deep down people know soda n such is poison. I just wonder–who has time/money to shop for all that stuff?

  17. Haven’t we learned from reading this blog and Dr. Fung’s excellent books that calories in/calories out is a failed diet strategy in the long term, but that it nevertheless may work in the short term? In other words, the 10-weeks window of time during which this Haub whore ate 1,800 calories per day maybe was short enough such that it “worked” for purposes of the study. Maybe he’s not lying… maybe he did lose weight. But maybe if the experiment ran 18 months instead of 10 weeks he would have failed miserably as his metabolism slowed to a crawl and he gained back all the weight plus more. So, it’s possible he is telling the truth and his only error is not revealing the conflict of interest (i.e., the source of his sponsorship).

    • MachineGhost

      Yep, but CICO (energy balance) is not same as CRaP (dieting). CICO works when fasting because TEE doesn’t decrease.

  18. Eye opening information. Thank you Jason for the clear, extremely informative information. The politics of sugar and science make very strange partners.

  19. Coca Cola invented the calories in/out model didn’t they?

    If you look at many government dietary bodies or charity foundations…. you will see food or drug companies who are partly to blame are the main sponsors.

    • MachineGhost

      No they did not. Metabolic ward studies for over a hundred years have clearly established CICO. Most everyone reading this blog seems to keep conflating it with CRaP.

  20. I learned about the effects of Coke as a teenager. I watched my obese mother give up Coke (she had 3 a day) and she lost 20 pounds in one week. I knew right then I never wanted to drink soda if it was responsible for that much weight gain.

  21. There is video done by the BBC call “The People Who made us Fat” a 3 part series. Need to watch.

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