Coca-Cola accused of misleading health claims
US Right to Know, a consumer advocacy group, has made an official complaint to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking it to stop the Coca-Cola Company from making what it says are illegal claims that its artificially sweetened sodas prevent, mitigate or treat obesity.
The group alleges that Coca-Cola Company has made apparently illegal “disease claims” on at least eight occasions.
“Coke is gulling consumers into believing that artificially sweetened soda is a treatment for obesity,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “Coke is wrong on the facts and the FDA should stop them if they are on the wrong side of the law.”
“Coke’s claims that its artificially sweetened sodas treat obesity are probably false,” Ruskin said.
The claims centre around Coca-Cola Company’s news release titled 'Coca-Cola Announces Global Commitments to Help Fight Obesity', which states that the leading “commitment” in its efforts to “fight obesity” is to “Offer low- or no- calorie beverage options in every market.”
However campaigners say that there is no evidence that these beverages help fight obesity in any way and mislead consumers by insinuating that they help cure obesity.
According to the Corporate Crime Reporter, US federal law and rules allow food companies to make science-based “health claims” that link a product to reduced risk of a disease, but prohibit them from making “disease claims,” or claims to “diagnose, mitigate, treat, cure, or prevent a specific disease…”
Evidence to the contrary
Campaigners add that there is growing scientific evidence tying artificial sweeteners to weight gain, not weight loss.
- A 2010 Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine review of the literature on artificial sweeteners concludes that, “research studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may contribute to weight gain.”
- A 2013 Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism review article finds “accumulating evidence suggests that frequent consumers of these sugar substitutes may also be at increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” and that “frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements.”
- A 2015 study of older adults in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found “In a striking dose-response relationship,” that “increasing DSI [diet soda intake] was associated with escalating abdominal obesity…”
- A 2014 study published in Nature found that “consumption of commonly used NAS [non-caloric artificial sweetener] formulations drives the development of glucose intolerance through induction of compositional and functional alterations to the intestinal microbiota….our results link NAS consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities….Our findings suggest that NAS may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact epidemic that they themselves were intended to fight.”
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