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how does industry “buy” science?

As far as extreme or norm – certainly when it comes to obesity and nutrition, there’s a great deal of food industry funding research, conferences, travel, etc… Husten has reported that the president of the Institute of Medicine, cardiologist Victor Dzau, was a member of the Pepsico board of directors. Last year he wrote on his website, ‘Coke also pays a lot of money to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute to put a red dress logo on the Diet Coke label, while the American Heart Association has struck deals with, among others, Cheetos and Subway.

I am sure that these represent just the tip of a very large iceberg.’ From Kathlyn Stones August 2015 article for Health News Review, Behind the Scenes of the Time’ Takedown of a Coke-Funded ‘Front Group

There’s a concept known as ‘Energy Balance’ that’s been floating around the weight loss world for decades.  It says that if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.  Likewise, to lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume.

The Energy Balance theory has not only fueled scads of articles in the magazines you must pass when checking out at the grocery store (Shocking Truth: Jog Ten Miles to Burn Off Just One Brownie), it’s still being promoted by too many doctors (HERE).  Considering it’s now April of 2018, way too many doctors.  What’s even worse, however, is that it’s being promoted by some of those who really should know better — prominent scientists and professors.  Enter Steven Blair.

Dr. Blair left his professorship at the University of South Carolina’s Departments of Exercise Science, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, where he not only received numerous accolades and awards, but was said to have published over 700 papers and book chapters (not as many as HUGH but a lot nonetheless).  His area of expertise is the relationship between one’s level of physical fitness / body composition (lean body mass -vs- bodyfat) and chronic disease (HEART DISEASE, OBESITY, DIABETES, etc, etc, etc).

His most famous lecture / article is called “Physical Inactivity: The Biggest Public Health Problem of the 21st Century”.  While too little exercise is certainly a huge problem as far as Western health is concerned, is it really the biggest? 

To answer this question, we need to go back to a couple of posts I wrote on calories.  Let me go on record to say that calories have little meaning as far as your weight is concerned.  In fact, I consider counting calories rather a waste of time.  Why?  Because it’s not the CALORIES themselves that cause people to gain weight, but instead it’s the effect said calories have on the endocrine system (particularly the metabolic pathways that deal with hormones such as insulin, glucagon, ghrelin, leptin, etc — HERE). 

For example, put your body in KETOSIS and you can consume more calories than you ever dreamed possible, while shedding pounds like a junkyard dog sheds fleas (HERE).  On the other hand, subsisting on 1,000 calories a day of the wrong stuff (heavily processed carbs, sugar, and CHEMICALS) frequently contributes to ramped up INSULIN RESISTANCE and METABOLIC SYNDROME — the precursors to TYPE II DIABETES.  In other words, promoting “Energy Balance” as a valid method of weight loss in this day and age is not only ridiculous, it’s living 60 years in the past. 

Speaking of 60 years in the past; I’ve shown you on two different occasions how the sugar industry paid Ivy League researchers to “prove” that our nation’s burgeoning health problems were related not to eating sugar but instead to increased consumption of dietary fat (HERE and HERE) — and then got it published in the most prestigious journals of the day.  Taking a page out of an old playbook; in 2014 Coca Cola created something known as the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), with Blair and two others leading the way (Coke had already been funding the research for many years). 

And although the organization went belly up in November of the very next year (stick around to see why), Coca-Cola managed to pay for several hundred studies, the driving theme always the same; that our epidemic of obesity and chronic illness has not been fueled by sugar (particularly SUGARY BEVERAGES), but instead by sedentary lifestyles. 

How bad was the fallout?  When the cat was finally let out of the bag as far as who was actually funding GEBN, not only did Blair find himself out of a job (he “retired”), so did one of the other head honchos (Dr. Hand lost his job as Dean of West Virginia’s School of Public Health).  Not only were these gentlemen paid handsomely for being industry shills, Coke was funding GEBN to do studies showing just how ‘harmless’ sugar really is. 

Recently, one of BMJ‘s numerous publications (the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health) published an Oxford-led paper that read more like a sordid tell-all that may have been more at home in the Enquirer than a scientific journal — Science Organizations and Coca-Cola’s ‘War’ with the Public Health Community: Insights from an Internal Industry Document.

I am not going to spend any real time here because you can probably guess what was going on by recalling what Big Tobacco was doing three decades ago (plus the study is free online).  Basically, Coke put the framework for GEBN in place, complete with internal memos revealing not only that the sole motive was making money and creating favorable public policy, but they also hid their relationship to the scientific community, not letting on that they were paying for the entire shindig, while making it look like Blair and his brethren were coming to all of these conclusions of their own. 

Newly revealed records show they weren’t. Case in point, another study, also from England (Coca-Cola – A Model of Transparency in Research Partnerships? A Network Analysis of Coca-Cola’s Research Funding (2008–2016)), published in the Cambridge Core.  Here are some cherry-picked highlights.

“There is concern in public health that The Coca-Cola Company may fund research that benefits its corporate interests and diverts attention from the role of sugar-sweetened beverages in the obesity epidemic.  In 2015, The Coca-Cola Company published several lists of health professionals, scientific experts and academic researchers with whom it collaborated and whose research it funded between 2010 and 2015. It is not clear whether these lists are comprehensive.

The Coca-Cola Company, in conjunction with The Coca-Cola Foundation and the Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness, has funded 389 studies between 2008 and 2016, published in 169 journals, involving more than 1000 authors.  Although Coca-Cola took a step towards transparency, our data have shown major gaps and errors in its disclosures of research funding: Coca-Cola has acknowledged only forty-two out of 513 potential investigators on grants awarded by the company. 

Coca-Cola predominantly funds research on nutrition, with a focus on physical activity, the concept of ‘energy balance’ and how these two factors relate to obesity and diabetes.”

Transparency?  Surely you jest.  Coke was about as transparent as our government’s been (make sure to go see the new movie Chappaquiddick this weekend) — particularly once this charade was exposed by journalist Larry Husten, and Medical Doctor Yoni Freedhoff.  How one could conceivably refer to 42 of 907 “Coke” researchers (4.6%) as transparent is beyond me.  And honestly, while Coke probably thought they were making a a good choice in Blair, I’ve always been adamant that doctors (and in this case, exercise physiologists), no matter how intellectual, academic, or “nice,” SHOULD LEAD FROM THE FRONT

Nothing destroys credibility faster than someone who is severely overweight telling the public the best ways to LOSE WEIGHT — kind of like a virgin working as a SEX THERAPIST. Furthermore, Blair’s ongoing public debate with Cardiologist, Dr. Aseem Malhotra (see the link on ‘Heart Disease’ above) has shown just how off-base and financially conflicted he and GEBN really were/are.

Bottom line, this is how it rolls with way too much of what we oxymoronically refer to as ‘EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE‘.  And if you think that this sort of thing is not happening times ten with significant numbers of DRUG & DEVICE STUDIES, I have this bridge in Brooklyn I’ve been wanting to get rid of; cheap. 

If you are struggling with with chronic health conditions, weight included, I’m giving you (completely free of charge and with no strings attached) a protocol to start moving your personal health-o-meter in a different direction.  It’s not designed to cure any specific disease, but to make your body function better by promoting proper physiology and homeostasis (HERE). 

If you know someone who could benefit from this information, be sure to get it in front of them by liking, sharing, or following on FACEBOOK — the best way going to reach those you love and care about most with information that could potentially save their lives.


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