Today, the NYT reported that Coca-Cola's Chief Scientist is stepping down in the midst of a controversy regarding Coke's support of researchers who emphasize exercise for weight control. Dr. Rhona Applebaum was working with established scientists to position the obesity discussion as a question of energy balance rather than demonizing particular food groups. 

In the middle of this somewhat silly controversy are emails from Jim Hill, a smart, good guy from the University of Colorado (which is my college and Med School Alma Mater). I've met him briefly on numerous occasions and he's the kind of guy who answers emails from colleagues the same day. He's helpful, passionate and pretty damn good at what he does. Guess what else? He's nationally famous for promoting a view of weight loss that focuses on energy burning, not energy consumption.
His research in this area precedes his relationship with Coca-Cola by decades! This is not a case of a big company buying researchers off, it's a case of two viewpoints, one acedemic, one commercial, agreeing on a scientific conclusion. 

I happen to disagree with Hill. I don't think the "built environment" is the cause of obesity and that we all just need to walk it off. But there is no question that Hill's research has shown this argument to be tenable over and over again. He believes it, and that is the point. 

I think it's a shame that my Alma Mater decided to give money back to Coke because of a publicity problem. There IS NOTHING WRONG with collaborating with business as long as business does not design your studies or select which outcomes get published.

But getting to my more salient point: I am available. Please Coke, give me a call. I happen to love your product, know that it is easy to balance drinking it in a healthy lifestyle and have demonstrated in my writing here on Science 2.0 that weight problems are much too complex to be ascribed to single causes.

People want to latch onto high fructose corn syrup as a uniquely poisonous substance because it is a simple idea and lets us know what to avoid. But I can say without a doubt that I literally never met an obesity patient in my practice who had a particular affinity for Coke. Several of my patients were hooked on diet sodas with a mistaken notion that they help with weight loss, but they never drank the sugary stuff. That's for the skinny people, right?

There are all kinds of cause and effect problems here, so much so that it is currently Diet sodas which interest obesity researchers as somehow causing weight gain. Head's up to those researchers: That's not it either!

Obesity is a tremendously complex condition which occurs due to a metabolic disturbance in the context of general caloric excess, coupled with an inability to gain necessary protein via a food environment which encourages consumption of fat and carbs.

I hope that Dr. Hill and colleagues continue to weather this storm and keep doing the great work that they are doing. For a review I posted two years ago on Jim Hill's excellent diet book please see: REVIEW