Both Canada and the United States are experiencing the widely publicized obesity epidemics.Â Current estimates suggest that approximately 25% of Canadians meet the diagnostic criteria for obesityâ€”while a whopping 35% of Americans tip the scales in the obesity category.
In both cases, the rates of obesity having increased by roughly ten percent over the past twenty years.
Consequently, it is with great irony that Coca Cola has launched their â€˜war on obesityâ€™ campaign.Â Câ€™mon letâ€™s get serious hereâ€¦Â Isnâ€™t that just a little like Philip Morris launching a war against lung cancer?
While thereâ€™s extensive published literature looking at the associated risks between soft drink consumption and your risk of developing diabetes or gaining weight, letâ€™s take a look at this study published in the American Journal of Public Health:
â€œSoft drink consumption increased globally from 9.5 gallons per person per year in 1997 to 11.4 gallons in 2010.â€
This first quote suggests that despite popular opinion that soft drink sales are declining, worldwide the business of making people fat is good.
â€œA 1% rise inÂ soft drinkÂ consumption was associated with an additional 4.8 overweight adults per 100, 2.3 obese adults per 100, and 0.3 adults with diabetes per 100.Â Soft drinkÂ consumption is significantly linked to overweight,Â obesity, and diabetes worldwide, including in low- and middle-income countries.â€
The second quote highlights the effects that good business in soft drink sales has on increased rates of overweight, obesity and diabetes worldwide.
As part of their marketing campaign, Coca Cola touts that it is offering a variety of low-calorie alternatives particularly for schools and other venuesâ€¦ Â If you werenâ€™t already aware, hereâ€™s some breaking news from Coca Cola:
â€œOne simple common sense factâ€¦Â All calories count no matter where they come from including Coca Cola and everything else with calories.Â If you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, youâ€™ll gain weight.â€
Translation:Â Drinking Coca Cola will make you fat and the solution includes drinking their low and no-calorie alternatives such as Diet Coke. ???Â
Is this necessarily true?
The dialogue in the commercial continues:
â€œAcross our portfolio of more than 650 beverages, we know offer 180 low and no calories alternatives.Â Most of our full-calorie beverages have low or no calorie versions.â€
Again, the implicit message in this campaign is that while basically acknowledging that drinking their regular soft drinks will contribute to your risk of obesity, they have low and no calorie alternatives that do not.
Essentially, Coca Cola has diverted the bad guy role from themselves to calories.Â There is a bad guy in this battle and his name is not Coca Cola.Â The bad guyâ€™s name is calories.
The Villain Named Calories:
â€œOver the last 15 years, this has helped reduce our average calories per serving in the US by 22%.Â Weâ€™ve created smaller portion-control sizes for our most popular drinks and will have them in 90% of the country by the end of the year.
Weâ€™ve added the calorie content of all of our beverages on the front to help make it even easier for people to make informed decisions.
For elementary, middle, and high schools our industry has voluntarily changed its offerings to primarily waters, juices, and low and no calorie options.Â This has helped to reduce the calories in our industries beverages by 90% since 2004.â€
Whatâ€™s also interesting about this ad campaign is the wording that deflects Coca Cola itself as the â€˜bad guyâ€™ and instead directs this problem to the industry in general.
There is also the unstated but implicit message that choosing low-calorie options such as Diet Coke is part of the solutions for Americaâ€™s obesity epidemic.
First, letâ€™s take a look at the portion-control solution proffered by Coca Colaâ€¦
Overall, the mini can has roughly 36% less calories than the normal can.Â Conversely, if one mini can doesnâ€™t quench your thirst, drinking two of these cans will have 40 calories more than the regular sized can.
Since Coca Cola has cleared established that calories themselves are the villain in the obesity epidemic, it stands to reason that having teenagers choose diet soda insteadÂ is a pretty good idea, right?Â Well, maybe notâ€¦
According to researchers at the National Institute of Diabetes:
â€œEpidemiologic studies of artificial sweetener use in children have generally shown a positive association between artificial sweetener intake (most commonly as diet soda) and weight gain.â€ â€“ source.
The simple translation of the above quote is that epidemiologic studies generally show that consumption of diet soda causes weight gain in children.Â While epidemiologic studies only show associations as opposed to a clear cause-effect relationship, the consistent association found between consumption of diet soda in children and increased weight gain doesnâ€™t inspire much confidence as diet soda being the solution.
You mayÂ fattenÂ all the people part of the time, and part of the people all the time, but not all the people all the time.
In short, Coca Cola’s adding new meaning to the idiom, living off the fat of the land… Â Essentially they’re a company that’s made billions in profits selling products that have contributed to causing the obesity epidemic, now they’re pretending to offer a solution.