Today, The Denver Post provides further details on a University of Colorado professor’s Coca-Cola ties.
- “James Hill, a University of Colorado professor who launched a global campaign to fight obesity, accepted $550,000 from the Coca-Cola Co., traveled the world at company expense on speaking engagements and solicited a job at the soft-drink giant for his son.”
- “The Coca-Cola connection highlights the secrecy surrounding much of the corporate money pouring into CU’s prestigious Anschutz medical campus. In addition to the money it paid directly to Hill, not through the university, Coca-Cola donated $1 million to CU Anschutz to help Hill spread his message through a group called the Global Energy Balance Network. That was classified as a private gift to the university’s foundation, protected by state law from disclosure unless the donor consents.”
- “The Post also found that distinctions between philanthropy, public health research and corporate interests can get blurred. For example, Hill’s research on diet and nutrition attracted Coca-Cola’s interest long before the company made a philanthropic donation to his global project. He also serves as the principal investigator in a study that examines beef as a sole source of red meat protein in a diet. That research is co-sponsored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, according to a clinical trials database.”
- “The university returned the $1 million gift from Coca-Cola. It says senior leaders made that decision because the company “was redirecting the dialogue” from a scientific discussion about the causes of obesity.”
- “A 2014 conference for journalists at the CU Anschutz campus featured Coca-Cola and McDonald’s executives as well as Christopher Snowdon, a lecturer from a free-market think tank. The conference, funded in part through the Coke gift, also included research, financed by the American Beverage Association, that found people lost more weight drinking diet beverages than water. In a speech, Snowdon said soda taxes are a bad way to fight obesity. They fall hardest on low-income people, invite people to switch to cheaper brands or simply pay more, and yield a negligible reduction of calorie intake, he said.”
- “[Snowdon] also spoke about the economic upside of unhealthy lifestyles that shorten life expectancies.
- “There are costs associated with an aging population — very severe costs,” Snowdon said. “So if people are spending less time in old age, at which point they are not paying taxes any more generally and they are taking from the system rather than putting in after the age of 65, then what are the savings there?”
- “Kristin Jones attended as a health reporter for Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. “What I thought I was getting was a presentation of the science of obesity,” she said. Instead, she found an industry-friendly series of workshops where the presentations supported a particular theory of energy balance and soda taxes were condemned. “I wouldn’t have gone through a three-day conference on the science of obesity if I knew it was partly sponsored by Coca-Cola,” she said.”