The $1.5 million health research group Coca-Cola helped fund — and influence — disbands after the soda giant cuts ties

Coca cola

Without Coca-Cola’s support, it looks like the nutrition nonprofit it helped fund is out of business.

On Monday, the Global Energy Balance Network posted on its website that the nonprofit was discontinuing operations immediately, due to resource limitations.

Last week, Coca Cola announced it was cutting ties with GEBN after damning emails revealed the company’s deep involvement with the nonprofit, running counter to GEBN’s previous promises that the soda giant had “no input” into its activities despite the $1.5 million in funding it donated.

In fact, emails revealed that Coca Cola helped pick the group’s leaders, edited its mission statement, and suggested articles and videos for its website. Coke even had input on relatively minor issues, such as the group’s logo, which the company maintained could not be blue — the colour of Pepsi’s cans.

One proposal circulated via email at Coke demonstrated the company’s hope that GEBN would establish itself as a reputable scientific source to counter “public health extremists” who want to tax or limit foods they deem unhealthy, a label that Coke is currently trying to dodge.

Coke has been accused in recent months of funding misleading research, such as that conducted by the GEBN, that champions exercise over dietary changes to fight obesity.

However, studies demonstrate that in terms of weight loss, diet plays a bigger role than exercise, as Phillip Stanforth, a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas and the executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas, told Business Insider.

Further, a systematic review of 50 years of studies published by the American Society for Clinical Nutrition in 2006 found a link between the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda people consumed and weight gain and obesity.


In addition to Coke cutting ties with GEBN after the emails were released, the company accepted the retirement of its chief health and science officer, Rhona Applebaum, who initially managed the relationship between Coke and GEBN.

As the company faces backlash for influencing scientific research, Coca Cola has promised to increase its transparency about research partnerships going forward.

A Coke spokesperson told Business Insider that the company had no comment on the news that GEBN was disbanding.

“We appreciate the commitment to energy balance that the membership has demonstrated since our inception, and encourage members to continue pursuing the mission ‘to connect and engage multi-disciplinary scientists and other experts around the globe dedicated to applying and advancing the science of energy balance to achieve healthier living,'” GEBN’s website now reads.

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