Is the Soda Industry Hiding Health Risks of Drinking Soda?

Is the Soda Industry Hiding Health Risks of Drinking Soda?

When the soda industry funds studies into the health risks associated with consuming its products, soda always comes out looking rosy, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

A team of scientists from the university recently looked at studies published between 2001 and 2016 on the relation of soft drink consumption to obesity and diabetes. They found a 100% probability that a published study that finds no link between sugary beverage consumption and poorer metabolic health was underwritten by the beverage makers themselves, or was authored by researchers with financial ties to that industry. [1]

So the next time you see a study claiming that sugary drinks aren’t that bad for you, do a little digging and find out who funded the study. If the study wasn’t conducted by independent researchers, it’s probably trying to dupe you.

Source: Business Insider

Dean Schillinger, lead author of the report and chief of the UCSF division of general internal medicine at San Francisco General Hospital, said:

“If you look at just the independent studies, it becomes exceedingly clear that these drinks are associated with diabetes and obesity. Yet there are pockets of society that believe that they don’t cause these diseases because of the controversy that industry has created.” [2]

The authors wrote:

“This industry seems to be manipulating contemporary scientific processes to create controversy and advance their business interests at the expense of the public’s health.” [1]

Said Schillinger:

“If you were to poll the average American, you would find tremendous variation in the degree to which they understand and/or believe drinking five Mountain Dews a day can cause diabetes.” [3]

That’s the average amount consumed by teenagers in West Virginia, he noted.

Deceptive Dollars

Researchers looked at 60 experimental studies for their analysis and found that 26 of the articles – 43% – uncovered no link whatsoever between sugary soda consumption and either obesity or metabolic dysfunction. [1]

The remaining 34 articles, on the other hand – approximately 57%did reveal a link between the consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and those health problems.

As you probably guessed, the 26 studies that showed no link between sugary drinks and health problems were carried out by researchers with financial ties to the beverage industry.

Repeat Performance

Wait; haven’t we seen this kind of disingenuous type of “science” before?

Well, pretty much everywhere.

The revelation that the beverage industry funds soda studies that frame their products in a positive light may be shocking, but it shouldn’t be surprising. When you write about this sort of thing for a living, biased research starts to become old news.

In September, I wrote about how the sugar industry fooled the public for 5 decades by hiring Harvard scientists to downplay the link between sugar consumption and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the cause, instead.

The Sugar Association, as it was called in the 1960s, was behind the market saturation of low-fat foods, which, unsurprisingly, required huge amounts of added sugar to even be edible.

In October, I wrote about how Coca-Cola and Pepsi fund 96 U.S. health groups, including some run by the government. Yes, even the American Diabetes Association took money from the nation’s top two soda companies.

And let’s not forget about the pharmaceutical industry. From 2006 to 2014, there was a 43% increase in clinical trials funded by drug companies. The federal government does not require drug companies to hire 3rd parties to test their products.

Those are just three examples of the dishonesty going on behind the backs of Americans each and every day.

But unlike the Sugar Association, most companies these days don’t go out and “buy” the results they want. Instead, they apply subtle pressure to the researchers they are funding. Sometimes that’s not even necessary. Sometimes all it takes to skew a researcher’s work in favor of a company is the back-of-the-mind knowledge of where the money is coming from.

New York University food researcher Marion Nestle said: “It’s way too simple to say that companies buy the results they want.” She added that:

“[T]here is something about funding that leads – almost certainly unconsciously and unwittingly – to skewing studies to get the desired results. This is not hard to do.” [1]

The beverage industry, of course, insists it has nothing but the best intentions. In a statement, the American Beverage Association (ABA) says that”

“Beverage companies are engaged in public health issues because we too want a strong, healthy America. We recognize that we have a role to play in reducing obesity, and we are taking voluntary actions to reduce calories and sugar from beverage consumption — working together as competitors and engaging with prominent public health groups.” [3]

The new review was published 31 October 2016 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.


[1] Los Angeles Times

[2] The New York Times

[3] HealthDay