Coke-funded group swayed China's obesity efforts, papers say

Postado Janeiro 12, 2019

Over the coming years a focus on physical activity began to take precedence in China's obesity policy and much of the government activity in this area focused on the importance of exercise rather than diet, Prof Greehalgh says.

ILSI, whose current membership include various food and beverage organizations such as McDonald's, Nestlé, and PepsiCo and had connections with the tobacco industry, was founded by Coca-Cola executive Alex Malaspina in 1978 and has since been operating as a nonprofit body.

If you're interested in this topic - to me, a fascinating one - listen to the BMJ podcast linked above (and here) and read the whole paper by Harvard anthropologist Susan Greenhalgh, who has uncovered a very seamy history of Coca-Cola influence operations in China aimed at hooking the nation on carbonated sugar water. "The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) has been heavily criticized in the US and Europe for promoting exercise and downplaying the need for people to cut down on excessive sugary drinks..."

"Soft drink companies have fought tooth and nail to hold onto their customers, even as public health experts and governments have tried to get people to cut down on the sugary products they make". They found that from 2004 to 2015, ILSI-China sponsored six global conferences on obesity, which often featured scientists who promote the idea that exercise, not diet, plays the key role in preventing and lowering rates of obesity.

"Through a complex web of institutional, financial, and personal linkages, Coke was able to influence China's health establishment. Though the effect on official obesity policy can not be precisely measured, China's policies aligned well with Coke's position as transmitted through ILSI-China", Greenhalgh wrote.

"Because of its unique public-private structure, ILSI fills knowledge gaps and serves society in ways that any one entity on its own can not", DiNicolantonio said.