Coca-Cola’s Latest – Demystified

Have you seen the latest advertisement from Coca-Cola Corp?  Coca-Cola (CC) launched a multimillion dollar PR campaign to pour their hearts out (and their sodas in) to consumers everywhere in a plea to change the nation’s obesity epidemic.  Awesome, right?

Well, not exactly…

While we can all get behind efforts to address the nation’s obesity affliction and vow to do our best to change the world one affected person at a time, there is still something askew in this attempt from this beverage giant.

Let’s take a peek at their video first and then we’ll work together to break it all down.

While watching this I was instantly transported back to the numerous college and graduate classes I sat through on marketing, public relations, communications and advertising.  A common theme from this field of study was how to influence minds and create a favorable public image.  From a consumer’s perspective, this is quite a valuable skillset, since it trains your brain to easily recognize propaganda and begin to deconstruct.  Now I’m not saying I haven’t been sucked into a late night infomercial here and there, we all have. (As I sit in my Snuggie® typing this.  j/k)

So without further ado, let’s get to it.


“As the nation’s leading beverage company, we can play an important role (against obesity).”  – True statement CC and thank you for recognizing the depth of your influence.

“650 beverages, among them 180 low or no-calorie choices.”  – How many of those 650 are all natural?  When you say low or no-calorie, your video flashes to Diet Coke, inferring that one way to combat obesity is to drink this diet beverage?  However, this is not true.  Scientific studies have shown that the body’s response to artificial sweeteners results in similar rise of insulin as their sugar counterparts.  This is concerning news for individuals, especially for those who suffer from diabetes or metabolic syndrome.  In fact, the studies have shown that drinking diet soda may actually increase your risk of obesity over those who drink regular soda.  For example, one study performed by the University of Texas concluded that those who ingested one to two cans of diet soda per day had a 54.5% increased risk of obesity; those who drank one to two cans of regular soda had a 32.8% increased risk.   This National Institute for Health study, further reinforces this fact siting that rats demonstrated altered feeding behavior from artificial sweeteners, where they overate and became obese in comparison to those who just consumed sugar.

“Reduced average calories per serving in the U.S. by 22%.”  – Is caloric intake the key to battling obesity? Again, not true.  Some calories result in the body storing fat, whereas others result in production of muscle tissue.  Quickly absorbed carbohydrates, largely from sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and white flour are very efficiently turned into fat.  Calories from proteins and foods, such as nuts, seeds, beans, chicken or fish, for example, are typically broken down into amino acids which are the major structural components of muscle tissue.

Soda and Obesity

“Created smaller portion control sizes.” – Ok I’ll bite on this one, less Coke will be better for you in the long run.

“Included the calorie count on the front to make it even easier for people to make informed decisions.” – Ok, so you are letting us know the calorie count per item and your list of all ingredients, but how about complete transparency? Where is your GMO label, for example?  Sad to say, CC you do not want complete transparency or consumer informed decisions otherwise you wouldn’t have spent $1,455,500 to oppose Proposition 37.  For those of you not familiar with this initiative, Proposition 37 was on the ballot in November 2012 in California with the simple request to label any food that had genetically modified (GM) ingredients.  While many other countries are banning GM foods, we in the U.S. are merely requesting a label so at least we know what we are consuming.  I will be talking more about this issue in an upcoming article.

CC:  Stop trying to tug at my parental heartstrings by showing jovial (normal-weight) children walking the school halls.  Fantastic, you have changed the policy to only send water and juice to schools, but when you flash to diet soda also being included in offerings to kids, you have caused me yet again to stomp on my keyboard.  Diet soda is not healthy.

  • It does not reduce weight; rather it increases the risk of weight gain (see above).
  • Aspartame, a common artificial sweetener in diet soda, is a neurotoxin that impacts the health of brain cells.  As you metabolize aspartame, the carcinogen formaldehyde (ultimately present as metabolite formate) is created causing system toxicity.
  • As many of you saw on the Hip & Healthy Facebook (link) page, I recently posted this article from the American Academy of Neurology.  There is a direct link between sweetened drinks and depression. In the study, people who drank 4 cans/day of regular soda were 30% more likely to develop depression. This risk increased if the individual consumed diet soda.
  • Diet soda drinkers have a higher incidence of stroke/heart attack.  From a study presented at a recent American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, those who drank diet soda daily had a 61% increased risk of having a vascular incident.

Thank you CC for the public service announcement that you contribute to kids getting active and are working with scientists and nutritionists on alternative sweeteners.  When you take the high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, food dyes, potassium benzoate, and other harmful chemicals out of your products, we’ll talk, but until then, I’m not there yet. . . especially since I am still riding out this turbulent advertisement.  Each positive statement, followed by a corresponding inaccurate conclusion is enough to leave any health conscious individual spinning.

WHOA…Did you just explicitly say that “ALL calories count no matter where they come from”.  You merely implied this before, but it is now confirmed that you really, truly believe this. Please let me know if you would like more compelling information from well-documented studies showing that all calories are not the same.  Myself and a few hundred thousand other health advocates would be more than happy to provide.

“Finding a solution takes continued effort from all of us.  When people come together, we can make a real difference.” – Agreed.  Let’s get on the same page CC.  With your massive influence and billions of dollars, you can make a positive difference, but you also have to commit to making socially responsible choices.  I cannot guarantee it will be an easy road, but trust that if you can detox your products, you will have even greater success.  We will happily promote your products, when (hopefully) this happens.


Friends, continue to demystify and take each exposure to advertising as an opportunity to determine who is worthy of your dollar and who you trust with your family’s health.  And so I leave you with this quote:

“Every time a message seems to grab us, and we think, ‘I just might try it,’ we are at the nexus of choice and persuasion that is advertising.”
-Andrew Hacker




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  • Lyle Allen says:

    Excellent critique. I would like to comment on one aspect in which CC is doing research to develop better sweeteners. They, in conjunction with Cargill, are behind Truvia made from the Stevia plant. Whereas we can never have enough research, and all drugs, food additives, etc have side effects/trade-offs, I discovered several studies linking compounds derived from Stevia to positive health benefits such as reduced BP in mild hypertensives, reduced postprandial blood glucose with Stevia pre-load (compared with sucrose), and reduced insulin levels (as compared with aspartame and sucrose). Additionally, it appears to promote cardiac muscle repair in animals models. I am hesitant to rare about Stevia, but note it appears interesting as a sweetener. Our processed food is laced with salt and sugar and is engineered to promote addiction–IMHO (read Kessler’s Your Food is Fooling You) and as such I believe that some people might investigate it when transitioning to a more healthy diet. I for one had decided to give it up until I uncovered the positive research on Stevia-based sweeteners today, by following link in the Wikipedia entry. There is one review of the Stevia literature that caught my eye:

    Chatsudthipong, V.; Muanprasat, C. (Jan 2009). “Stevioside and related compounds: therapeutic benefits beyond sweetness”. Pharmacol Ther 121 (1): 41–54. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2008.09.007. PMID 19000919.

    I conclude that at least some head to head studies show that Stevia is superior to Aspartame and sucrose, and by extension HFCS.

    Durham, NC

    • Thank you Lyle for your thoughts on better sweeteners.

      While Truvia is made from the stevia plant, it has been processed, additionally containing erythritol (a sugar alcohol that is not completely processed by the human body and can lead to bloating and gas) as well as “natural flavors” which are not clearly indicated. As we know from the “natural” label it is not regulated, so who knows what is really present and how natural it really is. As we know from Pepsi’s PureVia, stevia processing utilizes ethanol.

      If the stevia is a green powder, read the label, it is likely just the plant ground into powder form without additives. If the powder is white, it has been processed and likely to contain other unwanted components. Elect for organic ground green when choosing stevia.

      More work to be done by these corporate giants before the health-focused community is on board.

      (Appreciate the link to the study…good read)

  • […]   ___A Sea of Omega-3          __Coca-Cola Demystified         NYC Top Organic […]

  • […] When I saw Coca-Cola’s obesity ad in early 2013, I knew I had to report.  So much misinformation packed into a short commercial, and worse yet I knew that many may believe the claims in typical influential ad fashion.  My background in marketing and communications has trained me well to look beyond the fluff and focus on the stuff.  So I broke the ad apart and revealed the true messages contained in the ad, along with the scientific support of how soda impacts the body.  This article became a focal point of a talk I did with high school students at my alma mater, where students got in on the ad demystification.  They did great by the way!  Coca-Cola’s Latest – Demystified […]

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