Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Coca-Cola's Chief Scientific Officer's Staggering Cognitive Dissonance

That's the nice way to look at it.

How else could you explain her defense of a product (sugar sweetened beverages) that accounts for a full 7% of total consumed calories and is itself devoid of any nutritional benefit?

Rhona S. Applebaum, vice president and chief scientific and regulatory officer at The Coca-Cola Co., in an article first published in the Sacramento Bee (since removed from their site it seems so I've linked to a web cache), states that,

"If we are really honest with ourselves, we know that no one group or sector can solve this problem alone and searching for a silver bullet that miraculously stops obesity is just not realistic. Targeting scapegoats or pointing fingers is simply a waste of energy."
Hmmmm, let's see.....while it's true that no single raindrop thinks it's responsible for the flood, and while one sandbag alone's not going to do the trick, what if there were one sandbag that could target 36% of the floodwater (will get to that number momentarily)? That'd be one helluva sandbag, no?

So what does Dr. Applebaum recommend? That,
"Instead, we should apply our energy to solutions that have been shown to work."
I'm sorry Dr. Applebaum - I'm not familiar with any interventions that to date have been shown to work, especially not those you allude to including more physically active jobs and of course, just moving more.

It's curious that moving is what Dr. Applebaum points her finger at all the while talking about solutions that have been "shown to work" given that there has never been any real world studies demonstrating a dramatic impact of exercise on weight loss. Nor am I aware of any public health interventions that have ever sustained increases in population based exercise levels. As far as real world studies go some suggest that even exercising an hour a day for 20 years won't protect against weight gain, and with kids, that a 10 fold difference in activity won't matter a whit.

Recently one of my favourite bloggers Stephan Guyenet posted a graph that might interest Dr. Applebaum. It's a graph superimposing America's weight gain with caloric intake over time.

So since 1970 or so we've seen caloric intake rise by roughly 550 calories per day.

If we take the beverage industry's own data at face value, that for the average American sugared beverages account for a staggering 7% of their total daily calories, that would account for 196 of the 550 calories we're now over consuming as a nation, or to put that another way, 36% of the 550 calorie a day flood. Now to be fair, we were drinking sugar sweetened beverages back in 1970 - but rates of consumption since then have tripled. Subtracting 1970 consumption from today still leaves Dr. Applebaum's baby accounting for a full 24% of the flood.

Sure seems like one hell of a juicy raindrop/giant sandbag to target to me, and frankly anyone who thinks differently I'd argue is either mired in some cogency crippling cognitive dissonance, or is on someone's corporate payroll.

Or both.