The University of Colorado’s school of medicine is giving back a $1 million dollar donation to soda giant Coca-Cola. The New York Times writes that the announcement took place on Friday after it was revealed the money—which was given to the university in 2014—was being used to establish an “advocacy group that played down the link between soft drinks and obesity,” called the Global Energy Balance Network. The non-profit group was mostly made up of scientists, told people to focus more on exercise and less on what they ate and drank.
After facing severe backlash, the University of Colorado released a statement announcing the return of the money. The university explained: “The School of Medicine and physicians and researchers on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus are making significant contributions to the understanding of and care for these health-related issues and the source of funding for the network should not distract from their efforts.”
— Robert Lustig MD (@RobertLustigMD) November 9, 2015
The Global Energy Balance Network released a video earlier this year featuring Dr. Steven Blair, an exercise scientist at the University of South Carolina and the group’s vice president, criticizing the media. He added in the video that there was “virtually no compelling evidence” that fast food and sugary drinks are contributing to America’s obesity crisis, even though many studies have shown otherwise. The network also launched a social media campaign where it said that exercise was the solution to obesity, without acknowledging the role of food and diet.
It’s not surprising that the university received flack over its partnership with Coca-Cola. Soda has been shown have a number of negative side effects and has been linked to obesity and other health problems. One British mom even claims that soda is so bad for for your body that she lost 120 pounds simply by cutting it out of her diet.
A number of health advocates are “pleased” with the university’s decision including Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor of food studies and nutrition at New York University. Nestle has, in the past, called the Global Energy Balance Network a “front group” for Coca-Cola. As for its part, Coca-Cola reveals that it will donate the returned money to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.