A US university is returning a $1m (€930,000) contribution from soft drinks giant Coca-Cola to start a group dedicated to ending obesity.
The money was provided to establish The University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Global Energy Balance Network, which says it is working on an “evidence-based approach to ending obesity”.
Since a New York Times story noted its funding from Coke in August, the group has been criticised for trying to play down the role sugary drinks play in fuelling weight gain and instead playing up the importance for physical activity.
The group’s president, James Hill, is a professor at the university.
The university said while the group “continues to advocate for good health through a balance of healthy eating habits and exercise, the funding source has distracted attention from its worthwhile goal”.
Coca-Cola said it agreed with the university that the money would instead be given to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
“While the network continues to support a vigorous scientific discussion of the contributions of dietary and physical activity behaviours to the obesity epidemic, it has become evident that the original vision for GEBN has not been realised,” it said.
In a video announcing the Global Energy Balance Network, one of the group’s leaders had said the media focused on “eating too much, eating too much, eating too much – blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks, and so on”. That video has since been taken down.
The group has said that the suggestion that its work promotes “the idea that exercise is more important than diet in addressing obesity vastly oversimplifies this complex issue”.