Soda industry influence on obesity science and policy in China

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A new report by Susan Greenhalgh in the Journal of Public Health Policy found that soda industry efforts to manipulate obesity science and policy in the US are well documented, yet little is known about whether the industry has pursued similar efforts abroad. In-depth research in China—analyses of interviews with prominent Chinese obesity experts, and of trends in obesity-related activities documented in newsletters of China’s lead organization on obesity, a branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a US-based, corporate-funded, global nonprofit strongly influenced by the Coca-Cola Company—showed that from 1999 to 2015, China’s obesity science and policy shifted markedly toward physical activity as Coca-Cola’s influence in China increased. This shift aligned with Coca-Cola’s message that it is activity, not diet, that matters—a claim few public health scholars accept. These changes correlated with the growing importance of Coca-Cola’s funding, ideas, and affiliated researchers via ILSI-China. In putting its massive resources behind only one side of the science, and with no other parties sufficiently resourced to champion more balanced solutions that included regulation of the food industry, the company, working through ILSI, re-directed China’s chronic disease science, potentially compromising the public’s health.

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