A frame grab taken from a new commercial from Coca-Cola
No sooner did Coca-Cola put out an advertisement on Monday night on several American cable television channels – encouraging people to come together to fight obesity – than critics were quick to pounce on its back.Activists and health experts criticized the soft drinks giant for trying to do "damage control" to combat the widespread belief that sugary beverages contribute immensely to the scourge of the 21st century – obesity.
The two-minute video is a first of sorts for one of the world's most popular cola brands. In it, the company talks about its range of beverages and how the soft drinks industry has voluntarily changed its offerings in US schools to primarily waters, juices and low or no-calorie options.
"All calories count, no matter where they come from including Coca-Cola and everything else with calories," the advert says.
"And if you eat and drink more calories than you burn off, you'll gain weight."
However, critics are not impressed by the "public relations" gimmick. They see it as an attempt to take the heat away from the cola industry which has come under increasing fire from all directions. Legislators are proposing a tax on sugary drinks, schools are seeking alternatives to full-calorie soft drinks and New York city is on the verge of limiting the size of soft drinks that can be served in restaurants and public outlets."The company remains one of the major causes of obesity," says Barry Popkin, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and one of America's top experts on beverage consumption.
Michael Jacobson, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the new advert "is a page out of Damage Control 101, which is to try to pretend you're part of the solution rather than part of the problem".
According to latest statistics, two-thirds of adults and a third of the children in America are either obese or overweight – and, given the current lifestyles, these numbers are expected to increase in the next couple of decades.
A diet high in added sugars is linked to many poor health conditions, including obesity, high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.