The problem is the soda. Not the calories.


The latest issue of the science journal Diabetes Care has two articles about sugar. Soda consumption in the US has increased fivefold in the last 50 years, to 200 liters (211 quarts) per person and year.

  • In the first article, this gigantic source of sugar gets the blame for a big part of today’s obesity and disease epidemic.
  • In the second article, soda is said to be just empty calories, without any harmful effects of its own.

What’s the difference between the articles?

One difference is that the second article is written by a person who is paid by Coca Cola. The author John L. Sievenpiper ….

…has received several unrestricted travel grants to present research at meetings from The Coca-Cola Company and is a co-investigator on an unrestricted research grant from The Coca-Cola Company.

The focus on calories is the junk food industry’s favorite argument. They desperately want to make you believe that obesity is caused by bad character, not bad food.

With this explanation, those who sell (addictive) sugar drinks are automatically innocent.

Coca Cola and other companies pay billions for advertisements to make you believe the calorie explanation. And they are happy to pay researchers who can spread the same idea in scientific settings, to make their advertisement more credible.


WHO Recommends Cutting Sugar Intake in Half!

New Study: Does Sugar Cause Heart Disease?

Coca Cola Blames Chairs, Assumes You are Stupid

A Calorie Is Not a Calorie


  1. Adrian
    Andreas, and what about coke zero? (or coca cola as branded in other countries)
    Reply: #4
  2. murray
    Looking at it realistically from Coke's perspective, they must have a plan to migrate into no-sugar or low-sugar soft drinks. But they cannot abruptly stop selling sugar drinks, both because it is still massively profitable and second because it would be an implicit admission they know sugar is harmful in the form and at the dosage they sell. Rather, they want to be in a position to defend the eventual massive lawsuits against them over sugar. So they have to establish scientific uncertainty in the literature, so they can draw on this as evidence in subsequent litigation. They want to be able to say, in several years, that they offered consumers a choice and the science had not yet established "clear or convincing evidence" that the sugar caused special harm beyond excess calories. Hmmm, the phrase "clear or convincing evidence" sounds oddly "legalistic" for a so-called science paper.
  3. ivor cummins
    Hi Murray

    Another reason they like the REAL sugar drinks is that the latter enhance appetite dysfunction and leave the poor sheeple waddling back to the feeding-bottle more often - thus enhancing overconsumption and precipitating higher revenues; these guys aren't stupid, they're not going to give up that extra revenue without a fight!


  4. Boundless
    > ... coke zero? (or coca cola as branded in other countries)

    What alternative sweetener is used?
    It varies by country.
    And unless it's strictly stevia, monk fruit or possibly erythritol, many people are going to tell you to avoid it for various reasons.

    Then I'm going to say: it doesn't matter.

    Drinking plain carbonated water is unwise due to acid load. Drinking carbonated water that is colored (by any means) sweetened (by any means) and/or loaded with caffeine or other stimulants is even more unwise.

    Plain spring water, from a BPA-free container, makes much more sense, and is a lot cheaper without the trademarked wavy red packaging.

    There is stevia pop out there. Tried some a couple of years ago. Too sweet.

  5. Victor
    I will play the Devil's Advocate here.

    Just because Coco-Cola, PepsiCo, and ConAgra paid a researcher to study the effects of sugar on the body does not mean that the researcher's conclusions were affected by his financial supporters.

    Let me quote the good doctor's own words in his abstract:
    "Sugar is purely a highly palatable source of energy; because it has no other property that appears to contribute to our nutritional well-being, it is not an essential food for most of us. For those who wish to reduce energy consumption, ingesting less sugar is a good place to start. However, doing so does not automatically portend any clinical benefit."

    His honesty at describing sugar as non-essential "for most of us" is refreshing. I believe that he is putting the best interests of the public ahead of PepsiCo when he declares this. His conclusion that there no clinical benefit from reducing sugar consumption is surely based squarely on sound scientific reasoning.

    There is no conflicts of interest here. All researchers who want to examine the effects of sugar on the body should seek financial support from the food industry.

    Reply: #7
  6. Jonathan
    It's a proven fact that when people stop drinking sodas and drink more filtered water they feel better, lose weight, have more energy and the list goes on. Simple solution just avoid it and then there is no debate :) I have numerous clients that can attest to it.

  7. FrankG
    Why? Why do you feel we need a devil's advocate here? Do you think that the sugar-lobby with all their billion$ does not already get a fair hearing?

    Just as Dr Andreas points out, your quote reinforces the position preferred by the soft-drinks manufacturers, that it is not sugar per se but rather calories (energy consumption) which are the issue.

    I'm also puzzled as to how you make the leap from your original reasonable and cautious stance of "...does not mean that the researcher's conclusions were affected..." to the unequivocal "There is no conflicts of interest here." and furthermore, to conclude from that, researchers SHOULD "seek financial support from the food industry" ???

    Reply: #8
  8. murray
    I thought Victor's comment was satire.
    Reply: #9
  9. bill

    I thought Victor's comment was satire

    ...of the weakest kind.

  10. Joey B
    I love to munch on raw sugar cane from my local farmers market I hope thats at least a little healthy
  11. Linda G.
    I'm reading "Salt, Sugar, Fat" by Michael Moss, a fascinating book about the packaged food industry, including sodas, and it is very revealing about how companies formulate their products to be appealing and even addictive, and how they advertise and promote to get people (including children) to eat and drink, more and more. The author sees fat as just as evil as sugar and salt, but the marketing tactics apply across the board for processed foods. I highly recommend reading it.
    Reply: #12
  12. François
    Oh, the dangers of lumping everything together... Sure, the processed food industry "formulate their products to be appealing and even addictive, and how they advertise and promote to get people (including children) to eat and drink, more and more." But what does this mean as far as a specific nutrient's effect on health? Squat.

    There are many 'wide-sweeping' half truths here. Especially when you add that "the author sees fat as just as evil as sugar and salt, but the marketing tactics apply across the board for processed foods." That the author may think this does not make him right.

    I believe that the point that processed foods are bad for health is about the only thing vegans and promoters of LCHF agree (though both groups believe it is bad for different reasons). But 'wide sweeping' statements like those made by Michael Moss are extremely dangerous. First, there is no need to formulate anything with sugar to be addictive; by nature, it is. When we were hunters-gatherers, this quick energy was an insurance one would develop a protective layer of fat to be able to go through winter starvation. The more people ate fruit carb, honey or maple syrup in North America (the only sources of concentrated available then), the more fat they developed (just like today as we share the same gene pool) and the higher the odds of surviving during starvation. As far as sugars being pro-inflammatory, there is no lower limit: the less you eat, the better.

    Second, not all fats are equal. This idea that people have that all fats are the same was used as a tactic by vegan researchers with an agenda to 'prove' that a high fat diet created stiffness in the carotid arteries of children on a ketogenic diet for epilepsy. It is easy to make this point: just use trans fats and/or a very imbalanced ratio of omega3 to omega6 with a North American ratio of 20-30 omega6 for one omega3 and you will get this result. Did you prove anything? Not really except that these crappy fats are bad for you.

    Saturated fats and a proper balance of omega 3 to omega6 (1 to 1-4) are health promoting and are not the evil stuff that vegans are trying to portray...

    As far as salt is concerned, there is a world of difference between its effect on normotensive people and hypertensive people. In normotensive people, the difference in blood pressure on a salt restricted diet versus a 'salt normal' diet is more or less 3mm Hg, a 'statistically significant' but 'clinically worthless' result. In hypertensive people, the effect of salt restriction may indeed help reduce blood pressure by as much as 5-10mm Hg.

    Take also into consideration the fact that a LCHF diet creates a low insulin environment and since insulin also has a sodium-retaining role, a low insulin is associated with urinary loss of sodium, which explains the headaches and fatigue some people have when they start a LCHF diet. In that case, they should increase their sodium intake, not decrease it!

    So please, please stop believing people who make wide-sweeping statements. If we do not read with a critical eye, we risk flushing the baby with the bath water.

    Reply: #13
  13. murray
    Francois, I agree with every point, but nonetheless, like Linda, I highly recommend reading the book. The book is excellent as a journalistic account of the lengths food companies go to design and market food, and to manipulate what people desire in foods. Yes, the salt-fat nostrums are tediously moralizing and misleading, but the journalism is superb.
    Reply: #14
  14. Joey B
    Salt and fat are just as addicting as sugar! Our obesity and health would not become 100% better if sugar suddenly disappeared! There are foods that have 0 sugar that are still very addicting salted nuts and cheese being perfect examples.
    Reply: #15
  15. bill
    Joey B said:

    "Salt and fat are just as addicting as sugar!"

    ...and your evidence for this statement is what?

  16. Joey B
    Where is you're evidence that sugar is addicting? I've struggled with salt cravings a lot but can't say I ever had much of a sweet tooth. Same for much of my friends and family especially when it comes to junk food.
    Reply: #17
  17. Murray
    There is lots of science showing that sugar has effects on the dopamine system akin to nicotine, codeine, opium, morphine, heroin, cocaine etc. whereas salt and fat do not. People obviously differ in their response to addiction. A large study of US Vietnam vets returning to the US addicted to heroin found that most kicked the addiction fairly quickly. Dopamine is certainly a factor in any crutch habit, like watching TV, but watching TV , or eating cheese, is not the same type of addiction. One might say I am addicted to cheese. I went to Italy and gorged on cheese for two weeks, and came back my lightest weight as an adult. Salt and fat are enjoyable and potentially habit forming, but neither addictive nor intrinsically fattening. I was travelling last week and came home with no cheese in the house. No cheese for four days. (I otherwise have cheese every day.) I will get around to getting some cheese at the market on Saturday--Roquefort, Comte, Gouda, Pecorino, Parmesan on the shopping list. I have no particular physical or emotional craving for cheese, I just really like it and more and more research shows health benefits from artisan cheese. A sugar addict, on the other hand, will get physically agitated at losing their daily (or more frequent than daily) fix.
    Reply: #19
  18. Paul the rat
    Enjoy your cornflakes/banana breakfast trolls !

    Replies: #20, #24
  19. Francois
    Further to what Murray said, please read
    It is one of many articles that indicate sugar is addictive.
    The article's conclusion: "Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals. We speculate that the addictive potential of intense sweetness results from an inborn hypersensitivity to sweet tastants. In most mammals, including rats and humans, sweet receptors evolved in ancestral environments poor in sugars and are thus not adapted to high concentrations of sweet tastants. The supranormal stimulation of these receptors by sugar-rich diets, such as those now widely available in modern societies, would generate a supranormal reward signal in the brain, with the potential to override self-control mechanisms and thus to lead to addiction."

    In an environment where sugar was scarce, this is a good thing: people will search and gorge on the rare things that will make them fat and help them survive starvation. It is a very bad thing when sugar is plenty and hidden everywhere. Big Food has understood this: why do you think there is sugar everywhere in processed foods? First, to make them taste somewhat good because without fat, food does not taste very good. Second, it makes food addictive so people buy more.

    A representative of the food industry was complaining recently that many researchers made that point that sugar was addictive. This does not mean it will cause the same "high" as an addictive drug, but rather that it will light up exactly the same brain regions as heroin and has cross reactivity with addictive drugs.

    I'll stick to cheese. And as far as salt is concerned, unless you are already hypertensive, its effect on blood pressure is squat. (more or less 3mmHg, nothing to write home about. Statistically significant, but clinically insignificant).

  20. Joey B
    So everybody who has a different opinion than you is a "TROLL"!? Not very mature of you everyone is different when it comes to food! I have been eating lots of bananas and avocados almost everyday and have never experienced weight gain! Corn flakes are obviously not a health food!
  21. Paul the rat
    "..So everybody who has a different opinion than you is a "TROLL"!?.."

  22. Paul the rat
  23. Paul the rat
  24. murray
    This paper and the glioblastoma paper you linked in #21 help me understand why excess stress is harmful to cardiovascular health and often turns hair grey. It seems the elevated cortisol elevates blood sugar and intracellular glucose, damaging mitochondrial chromosomes.

    Someone ought to write a book on the role of mitochondrial health in disease and aging.

    Reply: #26
  25. Paul the rat
    Reply: #27
  26. murray
    Thank, Paul. Will have to review my book-buying budget.
  27. Dr Jonathan Gordon
    Great stuff. Thanks from Australia.
  28. Jay Wortman MD
    I also note that Seivenpiper's esteemed colleague, the famous David Jenkins, inventor of the much vaunted glycemic index, has an impressive conflict of interest declaration:

    "D.J.A.J. holds an unrestricted grant from The Coca-Cola Company and has served on the scientific advisory board for or received research support, consultant fees or honoraria from Barilla, Solae, Unilever, Hain Celestial, Loblaws Supermarkets, Inc., Sanitarium Company, Herbalife International, Pacific Health Laboratories, Inc., Metagenics/MetaProteomics, Bayer Consumer Care, Oldways Preservation Trust, The International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education, The Peanut Institute, Procter and Gamble Technical Centre Limited, Griffin Hospital for the development of the NuVal System, Soy Advisory Board of Dean Foods, Alpro Soy Foundation, Nutritional Fundamentals for Health, Pacific Health Laboratories, Kellogg's, Quaker Oats, The Coca-Cola Sugar Advisory Board, Pepsi Company, Agrifoods and Agriculture Canada (AAFC), Canadian Agriculture Policy Institute (CAPI), The Almond Board of California, The California Strawberry Commission, Orafti, the Canola and Flax Councils of Canada, Pulse Canada, the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, and Abbott Laboratories."

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