The American Academy of Family Physicians has come under fire from nutrition and alternative health advocates for a new partnership with the Coca-Cola company.
Two weeks ago, the organization announced that it would accept a grant from Coke to "develop consumer education content on beverages and sweeteners for FamilyDoctor.org," a consumer health Web site.
Lori Heim, MD, president-elect of AAFP, said in a statement that the organization was looking forward to working with the soda maker "and other companies in the future on the development of educational materials to teach consumers how to make the right choices and incorporate the products they love into a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle."
Yesterday, the Centers for Science in the Public Interest said the AAFP should urge patients to avoid sweetened soft drinks, which "promote obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, and other health problems."
Marion Nestle, PhD, a food policy researcher at New York University, called the partnership an "embarrassing conflict of interest."
"I hope AAFP members decide that no matter what Coke paid for this partnership, their loss of credibility is not worth the price," she wrote on her blog, Foodpolitics.com.
Kelly Brownell, PhD, of Yale, called the AAFP's acceptance of the grant money "disheartening."
"There is no question that products made by the soft drink companies contribute to diseases that family physicians then have to treat, often without much success," Brownell said. "Taking the money to develop guidelines for healthy eating is beyond imagination."
Other nutrition experts said criticizing the initiative may be premature.
"If [AAFP] started to go soft on things like sugar-sweetened beverages, that would be a concern," said Keith Ayoob, EdD, RD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
"On the other hand, they may say 'we don't want people drinking soda in inappropriate amounts.' If Coke wants to fund that, I'm fine with that."
Ayoob said the overall message needs to define a specific quantity of acceptable soda and sugary beverage consumption in order for it to be a useful message.
"When you say things like 'moderation' and you don't define what that moderation is, it leaves it all open to interpretation," he said.
Advocates of the partnership say sugar-sweetened beverages are not the only culprit in the obesity epidemic. In an Oct. 7 editorial in The Wall Street Journal, Coke CEO Muhtar Kent said "it's not just about calories in. It's also about calories out."
Kent also argued that sugar-sweetened beverages "have been singled out in spite of the fact that soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened bottled water combined contribute 5.5% of the calories in the average American diet, according to the National Cancer Institute.
"It's difficult to understand why the beverages we and others provide are being targeted as the primary cause of weight gain when 94.5% of caloric intake comes from other foods and beverages."
Douglas E. Henley, MD, executive vice president of the AAFP, said physicians should urge their patients to "lead a balanced lifestyle," and noted that sodas can still be a part of that.
"We will move forward with this commitment by providing educational materials on sweeteners and how to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle while still enjoying many of the foods and beverages consumers prefer," he said.
The alliance comes as Coca-Cola will be releasing mini-cans that contain only 7.5 ounces of soda and 90 calories in New York and Washington in December.
Bottom-line according to Dr. Robert O. Young, Director of Research at the pH Miracle Living Center, "all soft drinks are hard on the body! Why? The answer is simple. They are ACIDIC. The pH of these so-called soft drinks runs around 2.5 which is more toxic then beer, more toxic then coffee and more toxic then your own urine. Soft drinks contain not only sugar which is a toxic acid but they also contain carbonic acid, phosphoric acid and artifical flavors and coloring. So what is the bottom-line on soft drinks? They are hard drinks and any amount is toxic to the human body!"
In Love and Healing Light,
Robert O. Young, Ph.D., D.Sc.
Founder of 'THE NEW BIOLOGY' ®
Creator of the 'SCIENCE OF ALKALINE LIVING'™ for Health.