Coca-cola and our health…

18 03 2010

After looking at Coca-Cola’s website and finding out all the beverage companies they own, I found a fitness section on their site as well. I was really confused by this. Why is the Coca-cola company, maker of the ever popular terrible for your health Coke soda, telling me how to stay fit? So, I wrote a letter to them, to which they, to my surprise, replied. Then I replied. Hopefully, I’ll hear back from them.

Anyway, I’d love to hear comments on how people feel about this. Is it just me, or do you think it is unethical for them to pretend to give a crap about our health? They DO own a bunch of healthy beverage company’s, many of which were previously privately owned (wah-wah), but I find it pretty crazy that they are attempting to disassociate all the detrimental effects of soda on this country’s obesity issues, by including a cute fitness section on their site.

Here’s our correspondence. I apologize in advance for the “Hugs, Danielle”- it is an unfortunate inside joke.
Sent:  3/12/2010 08:24:58 PM


So, I wanted to look-up who you guys (Coca-Cola) owned, as I am interested in avoiding your products due to ethical reasons. Thank you so, so much for listing them all on your site, so I can be sure to avoid ALL of them in the future.

On another note, I think it’s funny and odd that you guys offer nutrition information, especially fitness tips. Really? I know you guys own a bunch of beverages which ARE legitimately healthy, but your Coke product is a HUGE calcium leacher and being a soda, one of the leading causes of obesity in this country. You guys should really think twice before being so presumptuous as to associate your best selling product with anything related to health.



Then, I received this response:


Date: March 16, 2010 12:47:24 PM EDT

Thank you for contacting The Coca-Cola Company.  We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

All of our beverages can be an enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle and they all contribute to meeting the body’s hydration needs.  People have trusted and enjoyed soft drinks for more than 120 years.  Consumers today want choices and we offer a wide variety of beverages, including diet and regular soft drinks, waters, juices, teas, sports drinks and dairy-based products, as well as a range of portion sizes.  From our range of products and package sizes, consumers can make sensible beverage choices that are right for them.

No one food or beverage causes obesity.  Obesity is a complex problem that has no easy answers.  People gain weight when they consume more calories than their bodies use.  The most important thing that children and adults can do to maintain a healthy lifestyle is to eat a variety of foods in moderation and get between 30 and 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

Our website offers fitness tips because exercise is important for everyone, along with a variety of foods and beverages.  Coca-Cola is our flagship brand and can also be consumed as a party of a healthy lifestyle as long as it is within moderation.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (, as well as the Surgeon General of the United States recommend adequate calcium and vitamin D intakes, along with regular weight bearing physical activity, as the most important lifestyles measures you can take to build healthy bones.  The avoidance of smoking and excessive alcohol intake are also high on the list.  According to the Surgeon General’s Report, “as long as adequate levels of calcium intake are maintained, both carbonated and caffeinated beverages can be consumed in moderation” (page 265,  Caffeine, which is found in colas and energy drinks, coffee, and tea, can lead to a small decrease in calcium absorption, but this does not appear to be significant if adequate calcium levels are maintained.

To help ensure that you consume an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D, The Coca-Cola Company fortifies some of our products with these nutrients.  Minute Maid Orange Juice with calcium and Minute Maid orange juice with calcium and vitamin D are two of our leading fortified products.  You may read about other calcium sources in both of the above references.

We hope this is helpful.  Feel free to contact us again should you have additional questions.



Industry & Consumer Affairs

The Coca-Cola Company

And finally, my response:

From: Danielle

Date: March 17, 2010 8:27:13 PM EDT

Dear Sheree:

Thank you very much for getting back to me. I really appreciate it.

While I understand that it is your job to support Coca-Cola, I could not help but take issue with your response. Now, before I continue, please note that in my initial email, and in this one, I am speaking toward Coke, your key product.

First of all, in the first paragraph, you say that all of your “beverages can be an enjoyable part of a healthy lifestyle and they all contribute to meeting the body’s hydration needs.” Coke is just pure calories- there are absolutely no nutritional benefits. In a can of Coke classic, you take in 27g of carbs. 27 of those 27 grams of carbs are from sugar. Okay, you get 1% of your daily sodium need in there- great. Besides that, nothing. No vitamins. No nutrients.

Now, I understand that you are probably not allowed to say anything negative about the Coca-Cola company, as they employ you, but I just don’t understand how your company can ethically pretend to promote health on your website when your most popular, widely known product is a huge contributer to obesity, specifically childhood obesity, which is an epidemic problem in America. Yes, of course if someone who exercises regularly drinks a can of Coke once in a while, it isn’t going to be a problem. That was not my point- which you seem to generalize in your response. You neatly listed the ACSM’s guidelines for health, and I would agree with them. As a certified fitness instructor and health enthusiast, I believe in those principles and promote them. The problem is, most are not exercising. If the Coca-Cola company truly hopes that people in this country get healthier, they should stop selling Coke. I realize this is completely unrealistic, but the more soda is promoted, the fatter this country is getting. It is in the statistics.

In a study conducted by Harvard, it was found that the “odds of becoming obese increased 1.6 times for each additional can or glass of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumed above the daily average.” That is a LOT!

Next is a quote from a recent CNN article, entitled: “Nutritionists: Soda making Americans drink themselves fat,” which quotes studies from both the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The rise in soft drink consumption mirrors the national march toward obesity. At the midpoint of the 20th century, Americans drank four times as much milk as soda pop. Today, the ratio is almost completely reversed, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Meanwhile, in the past 30 years the national obesity rate has more than doubled, and among teenagers, more than tripled, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Also, according to Marion Nestle, well known author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition, “Adolescents who consume soft drinks display a risk of bone fractures three to four-fold higher than those who do not.”

So, besides getting fatter, people are losing calcium by replacing calcium dense products with junk soda. Therefore, higher soda consumption is linked to calcium deficits. So, to address your paragraph that says soda intake has no impact on calcium deficiency, I must disagree. Again, I’m not talking about the person who is fit, works out on a regular basis, and occasionally choses to drink Coke. I am talking about the average sedentary American, many of whom are not offered the education to make healthy choices, nor are given healthy options.

On another ethical note, I could go on to talk about the Coca-Cola company’s issues with groundwater depletion and pollution around the world, but that’s a whole other issue.

I think it is great that the Cola-Cola company wants to promote a healthy lifestyle, and as you and I have both said, many of the labels you own provide fantastic products that are great for the body. In addition, the fitness information on your website is well thought out and clearly stated.

I guess what I am really asking for is the impossible. Honesty. I am looking for a company as large and established as yours to take a step back and be honest. Be honest about what soda, your number one product, is contributing to; an obesity epidemic. And if Coca-Cola is ever able to look past the vast amounts of money it makes and instead consider the damage soda is doing right now to adults and most importantly to children, the future of this country- maybe you’d think twice and change your opinion on the “healthy lifestyle” soda can be a part of.

Thanks for your time.





3 responses

18 03 2010
Myles Tougeau

In a blog post,,
I highlight a lecture that Dr. Robert Lustig, Univ. of California, San Francisco, has presented on the effects of high fructose corn syrup (and refined sugar) being toxic. And he says that it’s worse than just empty calories. It’s not the calories (well, they probably don’t help), but the biggest factor is how your body metabolizes fructose.

Warning: The video on the following page is an hour and a half long. “UCSF Lecture on Sugar & Obesity Goes Viral as Experts Confront Health Crisis” at

To address your post, at one point during Lustig’s lecture he actually calls what has happened, “The Coca-Cola Conspiracy.” The sugar was originally included to cover the taste of the salt. He has a nice graphic of how Coke products have grown in size over the years. He doesn’t spare Pepsi either, and he goes after sports drinks and fruit juice, too. Part of the problem is that we’re not getting enough fiber. But to be fair, it’s not just Coca-Cola. HFCS is in almost everything. (It’s cheaper than sugar, which is actually made up of one atom of fructose and one of glucose.)

Some of the biggest problems is that fructose turns off your body’s feedback signal that you’re full (so you keep eating–and drinking) and that fructose is metabolized not like a sugar, but like a fat. The consequence is that drinking a soda is like drinking alcohol, but without the buzz. In other words, obesity, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, liver failure, and other fun symptoms of the metabolic syndrome.

And just today I read something about research recently being published that links high fructose consumption with pancreatic cancer. (Dr. Lustig gets into metabolic pathways in his lecture, describes how your liver metabolizes fructose, and mentions in passing really how metabolizing fructose puts more burden on your pancreas. If you don’t have an hour and a half, I have a link to an earlier version of his slides on my blog that have diagrams.)

18 03 2010

Thank you so much for your link! Scary stuff.

21 03 2010

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