Medical School Returns Coca-Cola Grant Used for Playing Down Role of Soft Drinks in Obesity

Tuesday, November 10, 2015
(photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth, AP)

A Colorado medical school is returning a $1 million contribution from Coca-Cola to create a research group intended to de-link the connection between soft drinks and obesity.


Coca-Cola donated the money last year to the University of Colorado School of Medicine to help establish the Global Energy Balance Network, a nonprofit group of scientists whose mission was to encourage Americans to exercise more and worry less about what they eat and drink. The New York Times reported in August that critics accused the organization of trying to reshape public opinion about soft drinks to protect the company’s bottom-line.


The outcry prompted the medical school’s leadership to return the money, saying “the funding source has distracted attention from its worthwhile goal.”


“Obesity and related health issues are serious concerns for personal medical care and public health,” the university said in a statement. “The School of Medicine and physicians and researchers on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are making significant contributions to the understanding of and care for these health-related issues and the source of funding for the network should not distract from their efforts.”


Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, called the network “a front group” for Coca-Cola intended to promote the message that obesity is primarily caused by a lack of exercise, not by overconsumption of junk food, the Times’ Anahad O’Connor wrote.


The University of Colorado isn’t the only recipient of Coke’s money. Muhtar Kent, the company’s CEO, said it had given $120 million since 2010 to create partnerships to curb obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics got $3 million to launch its website and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics received $1.7 million from Coke. Both organizations said subsequently said they would end their relationships with the soda maker.


Coca-Cola said it would donate Colorado’s $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

University Returns $1 Million Grant to Coca-Cola (by Anahad O’Connor, New York Times)

Well: University Returns $1 Million Grant to Coca-Cola (Best Education News)

Are NAACP and Hispanic Federation in the Pocket of Coca Cola? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Save the Children Switches from Soda Tax to Coke and Pepsi (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment