The "Obesity Paradox" Is Full Of...Funding From Coke

From the July 9, 1955 Saturday Evening Post in my collection
Something I've previously discovered in my research is highlighted in this Vox article: The obesity paradox: Why Coke is promoting a theory that being fat won’t hurt your health.

The major flaw with the research is that the "thin" people considered in the studies compared to the "fat" weren't truly thin. By that I mean for the purpose of the study, important considerations were not factored in. Conveniently so! Some of the thin people were lifetime smokers. Others had been obese or overweight but lost weight due to a serious illness prior to being sampled.

"In other words, if you classify the data properly, the evidence is clear: Obesity has all sorts of negative health effects. There's no paradox here."

Carl Lavie, author of (this is a real book) The Obesity Paradox: When Thinner Means Sicker and Heavier Means Healthier, was compensated by Coca-Cola. "The company paid for Lavie's consulting work, as well as travel and honoraria to lecture on the obesity paradox. It has also funded webinars by him on the subject." 

What's (actually, not so) shocking is how many other people and organizations, including the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, have been subsidized by Coca-Cola to promote the "obesity paradox." 

I wrote in my book that since the 1950s the American government has softened its position on defining obesity and its causes. Knowing that private industry, specifically Coca-Cola, is funding their research (the Foundation directly funds the NIH), should make us all even more skeptical of what we're being fed.

But really, Coke marketing to the masses is nothing new. Their advertising is highly collectible, with some pieces selling for thousands of dollars at auction. Their magazine ads in the 1950s highlighted beautiful, slim people in glamorous or "all American" settings enjoying the "best." Some of the slickest and most beautiful advertising from Coke, in my opinion, appeared during that time period.

A hard sell of a soft drink? Sure it was! But it wasn't sinister or scandalous.

Coke ads and soda fountains didn't make Americans, on the whole, overweight or obese in the 1950s and earlier.

What I believe is contributing to the obesity epidemic is the marketing of obesity itself.

The shift from "big soda" pushing their product through old-fashioned advertising to promoting the concept, via subsiding junk science, that the impact of over-consumption of sugar and calories on our bodies is benign IS new. It's yet another reason to consider a retro diet that discards the fattening advice of today! 


  1. This is an interesting point, Averyl. (You often make me think, which is why I love your writing.) I knew that Coke and other big food/beverage companies funded research but the idea of selling obesity boggles my mind. Normalizing obesity minimizes the ill effects of their products. Sugar is the tobacco of our generation.

    Thanks for sharing.


    1. You're welcome! I always appreciate your open mind, Sarah!


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