The Global Energy Balance Network story lives on
Coca-Cola funds scientists who mislead consumers about diabetes and obesity. This message spread from Tweets to the Times in weeks.
In response, Coke has vowed to act with “more transparency.” This August, CEO Muhtar Kent promised to release a
“list of health and well-being partnerships and research activities we have funded in the past five years”
In other words Coca-Cola will confirm the GEBN narrative. Greg Glassman’s tweet and Anahad O’Connor’s New York Times article exposed how Coca-Cola funds scientists. Coke’s response will be to show the world how exactly it funds scientists.
Coke may have calculated that its “transparency” campaign will salvage its reputation, but what about the recipients of diabetes dollars? If Coke reveals every dollar it pays the American College of Sports Medicine, how will that hurt ACSM’s reputation?
ACSM Prepares its Members for Coke’s Blow
ACSM official Steven Blair already had to retract his statements in support of Coke’s Global Energy Balance Network. Blair even admitted that by doubting the link between diet and obesity, he did a “disservice” to nutritional science. But that’s just the beginning.
While we don’t yet know the full details that Coke will release, we already know how the ACSM will react. The ACSM appears so concerned about Coke’s future announcement that it pre-empted Coke’s revelations by emailing all of its members ahead of time.
Soda Funding “Does Affect Objectivity” – ACSM President
ACSM’s email to its members insists that scientists can take money from soda companies without compromising their science. Should the public believe them? Can ACSM take money from soda and still speak honestly about soda’s contribution to diabetes, obesity and heart disease?
Well, ACSM’s own President Larry Armstrong has publicly stated that soda funding DOES influence science. In 2000, he told the Wall Street Journal that soda funding “does affect objectivity.”
If ACSM’s own president has admitted that soda funding compromises scientific integrity, how can the ACSM deny the facts?
How ACSM Can Come Clean
If ACSM really wants to come clean about soda, here are three steps it must take:
1. Publicly condemn ACSM official Steven Blair’s false statements. The ACSM must rebut Blair’s dismissal of diet’s relationship to obesity. If Blair admitted his claims were false, why hasn’t the ACSM taken a stance on this issue?
2. Update and retract their industry-influenced hydration guidelines. ACSM must tell the truth to the public: sports drinks such as Gatorade lower electrolyte concentration levels. In excess, Gatorade can lower electrolytes to fatal levels.
3. Stop fighting CrossFit’s Anti-Soda campaign. Join it. If ACSM truly has the public’s health in mind, why is it loudly lobbying against CrossFit, yet silent on soda? The American Beverage Association has sued San Francisco for warning its citizens about the risks of soda. CrossFit supports San Francisco.
Does ACSM support public health or the American Beverage Association?
ACSM has consistently maintained both a belief in the value of partnering with other organizations, and also a commitment to ensuring that such partnering enables progress and demonstrates the highest degree of independence and, especially, transparency.
It has come to our attention that, in response to recent news, The Coca-Cola Company will soon publicly disclose the health and well-being partnerships it has recently funded. We appreciate Coca-Cola’s commitment to transparency and understand thousands of organizations and their initiatives will be listed, including Exercise is Medicine. ACSM would like to take this opportunity to share the College’s approach to working with all of our partners, whether government, nonprofits, academia or industry.
Should you have comments or suggestions about ACSM’s approach to partner development, please submit them to ACSM’s National Center. All submissions will be reviewed and considered by ACSM leadership.
ACSM Approach to Partner Development
For more than 60 years, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has advanced and translated – independently and without bias or regard to funding agencies – scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. ACSM and its members are dedicated to promoting well-being, sport safety, fitness and physical activity through research, education and public health efforts that positively impact quality of life for athletes, patients and the public worldwide.
ACSM has translated this commitment into a substantial record of scientific and clinical advances for improving health and safety outcomes.
The importance of intersector collaboration has long been recognized by the World Health Organization and many others. To have a substantial national and global impact, the health and science sector has to work with other areas of society. ACSM considers such an approach important as well and, accordingly, pursues and engages in well-designed partnerships with governments, national governing bodies, academia and industry to achieve its goals.
As part of standard operating procedure, ACSM’s leadership:
- Reviews and assesses its partnerships to ensure continued alignment with the College’s mission and goals.
- Recognizes its ethical responsibility to disclose relationships with funding partners. This has been ACSM’s longstanding policy.
- Maintains a clear and well-defined separation between the financial support of partners and the programmatic decisions that are made by the College on matters of science, policy and advocacy.
- Continually seeks ways to further strengthen its approach to partnership sustainability and development.
ACSM is committed to scientific integrity and transparency and has worked diligently to maintain these ideals in a rapidly changing world. While ACSM values its partners, none interfere with, influence or keep the College from achieving its mission.
Director of Corporate Partnerships
401 W. Michigan Street
Indianapolis, IN 46202
Office: (317) 637-9200 x149
Cell: (216) 410-2906