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Coca-Cola Joins Anti-Obesity Discussion

By guest blogger Gina Cairney

The cola has been shaken and the pressure is building, but not for that carbonated "pffshh" sound and splurge of sticky, amber liquid all over your clothes and tech gadgets (because inevitably, you will spill soda on your favorite tech tool).

Rather, the pressure is on for beverage companies, like Coca-Cola, to address a serious issue plaguing society: Obesity.

sis_cokescreengrab.JPGThe Atlanta-based company announced Jan. 14 their intent to join the anti-obesity discussion with two spot ads, the Associated Press reported.

The first ad looked at what the beverage company has done over the past 15 years to inform and help consumers make better choices. The second ad, which aired Jan. 16, offered a rundown of activities that will help you burn off the 140 calories you just chugged, or sipped through a dainty straw.

Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is skeptical.

"It looks like a page out of Damage Control 101," he told the AP. "They're trying to disarm the public."

If the company is serious about fighting obesity, Jacobson noted, it would stop fighting soda taxes.

Childhood obesity affects approximately 17 percent of children and teens aged 2-19 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and efforts are being made to curb the epidemic and help young people make better choices about their nutrition and health.

For example, a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 20 minutes of physical activity per day over three months can reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

Another study revealed that although middle and high school students have less access to sugary sodas during school, they still have other sweetened beverages like sports drinks and fruit juices within easy reach. The study also found that sodas and other sweet beverages were still highly accessible to students outside of school in vending machines and at snack shops.

Other studies also found links between childhood obesity and consumption of junk food and sugary drinks, as well as how limited access to healthier food options can affect students' health and lifetime habits.

So what contributions has Coke made in the crusade against obesity?

According to their press releasePDF, the company has helped support and promote physical activity through programs like Triple Play, which was launched by the Boys and Girls Club of America in 2005 to promote balanced diets and physical activity.

Coca Cola Company also dedicated $5 million to place 100 new fitness centers across the United States as a way to promote and prioritize physical fitness in schools.

It's not clear what the country's number one beverage company plans for future initiatives, but it will remain true to its original conviction, according to the website: that no one can make a difference like all of us together can.

Interestingly, after selling us on the idea that the company cares about our well-being and health, it insists:

"Beating obesity will take action by all of us based on one simple common sense fact," the ad says, that all calories count no matter where they come from.


Image: Screen grab from one of Coke's ads.

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