by Barbara Berkeley, MD
So Coca Cola has taken to running a TV ad that waxes eloquent about their corporate concern with obesity and lets us in on all that they have done to combat the problem.
When voices who have been truly and consistently concerned responded to the ad, Forbes Magazine published a piece called, The Obesity Police Turn a Solvable Problem into a Needless War. In this way, the battle was joined yet again.
If you follow the Forbes link, you can also view the commercial which is embedded. It is a well produced marketing piece. Good for getting your heart rate up and your blood flowing at least.
Here is my reponse to the Forbes article, which can be found in the comments section:
"Characterizing those who want to seriously approach the obesity problem as “obesity police” sets up just as much of a battle zone as the comments you decry. Let’s look at some of the issues you raised with a critical eye rather than a confrontational one.
First: In reference to the Coca Cola ad, you say: ” The actual language of the ad is scientifically accurate and encourages healthy dialogue. It points out that obesity is caused by consuming more calories than we burn, and that calories come from many sources, including Coca-Cola.” As a physician who has specialized in obesity for over 20 years, I would take issue with this interpretation. Many of us who deal with obese patients believe that calories are NOT all alike, and that the issue for overweight and obese people is more closely related to the type of calories they consume rather than the amount. Over 40% of adult Americans have either pre-diabetes or diabetes. This means they are “ sugar-sick”, or have developed an intolerance to sugar. Sweetened beverages are composed only of sugar and have no other redeeming value. One might as well eat sugar directly from the bowl. To give you an example: the normal level of blood sugar in the 5 quarts of blood currently circulating in your body is 1 teaspoon. The amount of sugar in a 12 oz can of Coke is 8 teaspoons and is immediately absorbed. Those with sugar intolerance quickly turn sugar into fat, a fact that is not true for other types of foods.
Second: Like many who comment on the obesity epidemic, you assume that we have free will and can choose healthy diets if we want to. As you say, ” Food and soda companies are at all times the villain, while people, adults and children alike, are mindless zombies unable to withstand the lure of a Super Bowl halftime show.” However, I can tell you that the countless people I’ve treated over 20 years all reiterate the fact that….despite every good intention….they are unable to resist the continued marketing, ubiquitous presence of food, and the types of hyper stimulatory foods that are produced by major food manufacturers. I suspect that if you look at your own experience with food honestly, you will probably see that this is so. This is a sea we all swim in, and resisting the tide is not the simple choice you propose.
It is true that we need a civil dialogue about obesity. But that must include a willingness to jettison old beliefs and consider new views of the problem."
It is perhaps worth noting that the comment that follows mine says this:
"Only Forbes still has the courage to speak when it comes to regressive, inane, and irresponsible conspiracy trash."
I am still agog at the anger and hatefulness that discussions about food can generate. Food!!!! Not nuclear weapons, world religion, or territorial sovereignty. If we needed a greater demonstration of the power that those little molecules of protein, carbohydrate and fat exert on our brain, we would be hard put to find it.