Coca-Cola is providing financial support to a group of scientists who promote the argument that Americans are overly concerned with nutrition, while they should be exercising more. The new nonprofit Global Energy Balance Network is funded by an unlimited gift from Coca-Cola, as well as gifts from universities where some of its member scientists are employed and private philanthropy, according to the organization's website.
"It's very clear that around the world the populations are getting fatter. The big problem is we don't really know the cause, other than people are eating more calories than they burn on too many days," said the group's vice president, South Carolina University exercise specialist Steven Blair, in a recent video. "But maybe the reason they're eating more calories than they need is because they're not burning many."
But other scientists criticize the initiative, citing research that shows that diet changes have stronger effects than exercise on reducing obesity, as the New York Times reports.
In one of the most rigorous studies of physical activity and weight loss, published in the journal Obesity, scientists recruited 200 overweight, sedentary adults and put them on an aggressive exercise program. To isolate the effects of exercise on their weight, the subjects were instructed not to make any changes in their diets. Participants were monitored to ensure they exercised five to six hours a week, more than double the 2.5 weekly hours of exercise recommended in federal guidelines. After a year, the men had lost an average of just 3.5 pounds, the women 2.5. Almost everyone was still overweight or obese. “Adding exercise to a diet program helps,” said Dr. Anne McTiernan, the lead author of the study and a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. “But for weight loss, you’re going to get much more impact with diet changes.”