Monday, April 15, 2013

The Chair of the AMA's Council on Science and Public Health Works for Coca-Cola?

Sweet holy hell what a coup for Coca-Cola.

Meet Dr. Sandra Fryhofer. According to her website she's a board certified doctor of internal medicine in Atlanta and a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. She's also the past President of the American College of Physicians, a former committee member with both the Centers for Disease Control and the Institute of Medicine, and through 2015 she's the Chair of the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health.

Dr. Fryhofer is also a seasoned top-notch medical journalist writing a regular column for WebMD and having been a correspondent for CNN between the years 2001-2005 with appearances on NBC’s Today Show, CNN, CNN Streetsweep, CNN Talk Back Live, FOX News Network, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, and ABC News NOW.

So what does this undeniably talented MD with an illustrious career who currently holds a terrifically influential public health position with the AMA have to do with Coca-Cola? Well it would seem as if she's their new ace reporter.

In a series of 4 videos paid for by Coca-Cola and posted last week on their YouTube channel, Dr. Fryhofer champions the Coca-Cola friendly ideas that all calories count, that intake can be "balanced" by output, that non-nutritive sweeteners are awesome, and that high fructose corn syrup is just plain misunderstood. The videos are all embedded down below (email subscribers you'll need to head to the blog to watch), but my favourite by far was the one on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) where Dr. Fryhofer explains how sugar's sugar. Now to be clear, for most intents and purposes I agree with her. The science to date suggests sugar is sugar -both HFCS and sugar are worth minimizing in our diets - and while there may be some unique properties to HFCS as they pertain to the development of fatty liver disease do have a peek at the language Dr. Fryhofer uses to explain HFCS vs. sugar to viewers,

"They're both about half glucose - brain cell fuel - and half fructose, the sugar in fruits, honey and root vegetables

HFCS is popular because it's less expensive than regular table sugar, has nicer texture and color, and stays fresher longer
There you have it. HFCS is brain cell fuel akin to what you'd find in fruits and root vegetables but it's more popular than sugar because it looks and feels nicer and is fresher. Funny, that's not quite how I'd have described it.

So what do you think? Do you think there's a potential conflict of interest for the Chair of the American Medical Association's Council on Science and Public Health to be working with Coca-Cola, or are the interests of the AMA and Coca-Cola aligned?

The AMA has clear guidelines on conflict. I'll post them here for Dr. Fryhofer's benefit. Perhaps she's forgotten about them.
"A Member would be unable to act in the best interests of the AMA and another company if the fundamental goals of the two organizations were in conflict. Acting in the best interest of one organization would necessarily mean breaching the duty of loyalty owed to the other organization. In these situations, the Member should resign from one of the organizations."

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