Just weeks after an infographic about what Coca Cola does to your body went viral, the fizzy-drink giant has made headlines once again - but this time, for financially backing an organisation with an unusual health message.
In a recent video posted by the nonprofit organisation, vice president and exercise scientist, Steven Blair, said: "Most of the focus in the popular media and in the scientific press is, ‘Oh they’re eating too much, eating too much, eating too much’ - blaming fast food, blaming sugary drinks and so on. And there’s really virtually no compelling evidence that that, in fact, is the cause."
Health experts have branded the move as "an attempt to mask the problem that sugary drinks cause" on Coca-Cola's part, and one nutritionist has even labelled the Global Energy Balance Network, quite bluntly, as a "front group" for the global brand.
Scientists in the Global Energy Balance Network believe that people are eating more calories than they need to "because they're not burning many" in the first place.
"So we need to be in balance. We need to be in energy balance and at a healthy level, which means getting a proper amount of physical activity," says their website.
While part of the message is true - people do need to exercise more - the research has raised a few eyebrows among health experts for saying that the focus, when it comes to obesity, should be taken off diet. And it's particularly controversial because of where the funding has come from.
The New York Times reports that two universities, whose leaders are employed by the Global Energy Balance Network, disclosed that Coca Cola donated $1.5 million to start the organisation.
Health experts say the network's message is an attempt to "deflect attention" away from the fact diet plays a part in obesity.
Speaking to HuffPost UK Lifestyle, Daniel O'Shaughnessy from the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) says: "Whilst exercise is an important factor in maintaining healthy weight, the role of diet and nutrition should not be forgotten as it is paramount in achieving this.
"I agree that this move is an attempt to mask the problem that sugary drinks cause, particularly Coca Cola with 7 tsp of sugar per can.
"This is a move as part of corporate/environment responsibility mission to improve the image of Coca Cola as people are wising up to the effect of processed foods and sugar on health.
"They should focus on diet and removal of sugar but I guess they would be shooting themselves in the foot if they did so."
In an interview with the Times, author of Soda Politics and professor of nutrition at New York University, Marion Nestle said: "The Global Energy Balance Network is nothing but a front group for Coca Cola.
"Coca Cola’s agenda here is very clear: Get these researchers to confuse the science and deflect attention from dietary intake."
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Coca Cola tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle that the company has "a long history of supporting evidence-based scientific research relating to our drinks, the ingredients we use and on important topics such as energy balance to help inform both our business and our consumers".
"As part of this commitment, we partner with some of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and physical activity," said the spokesperson.
"We make every effort to ensure we are providing support in an appropriate manner and in accordance to the standards set forth by the universities and organisations with which we work.
"It’s important to us that the researchers we work with share their own views and scientific findings, regardless of the outcome, and are transparent and open about our funding.
"We will continue to support scientific research through public-private partnerships and use those learnings to continue to refresh people around the world with safe, great-tasting drinks."
If you're looking for a nutritious smoothie, you're better off making your own. "Homemade is way better because you can reduce the sugar and boost the protein with yogurt, tofu, nut butters, protein powder or others," says Patricia Chuey, a registered dietitian based in Vancouver. Chuey adds commercial smoothies (like the ones from juice bars or the Tim Hortons mixed fruit smoothie with 30 grams of sugar) often tastes sweeter and have added carbs from sugar.
We've all heard about health benefits of red wine including reducing the risk of breast cancer and promoting a healthy heart. "Red wine is cardio-protective due to the presence of resveratrol — a naturally occurring substance in grapes," Chuey says. But other studies have shown that if you're already healthy, red wine isn't always needed to boost life expectancy, according to The Daily Mail. Chuey says you says you can skip the alcohol and get healthy heart benefits from eating fresh grapes or unsweetened grape juice instead.
On their own, both green tea and black tea actually quite good for you. "They are rich in various antioxidant nutrients that offer heart protecting and cancer preventing properties," she says. But don't ruin the benefits by adding sugar.
"Whether you drink dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk or potato milk, ensure it naturally contains or is fortified with calcium and vitamin D," Chuey says. She notes that people don't need to drink more than two glasses of a milk per day.
If you're comparing this to pop, go for it. "It's far more natural than pop, but you should still read labels and check sugar levels," she says. However, other reports have shown that coconut water or juice isn't always hydrating and shouldn't be replaced for water if you're active.
Just because you don't see any sugar or calories, it doesn't mean diet pop will help your health. Even though artificial sweeteners are safe for most people, don't rely on diet pop to help you lose weight or have a healthier lifestyle, according to The Mayo Clinic. In fact, research has also shown that artificial sweeteners can confuse our brains to thinking were drinking calories, making our body release unwanted insulin, according to The Doctor Oz Show.
"Miracle drink? No. Tasty for an occasional treat? Sure," she says. Pomegranate juice has been hailed as a trendy super drink but Chuey says even though pomegranates are nutritious, pomegranate juices carry excess sugar. For example, POM's 100% Pomegranate juice has 32 grams of sugar.
"Well it depends. Many commercial iced teas are lousy. They are too high in sugar with little or no real tea," she says. Instead, try making your own iced tea with brewed tea, lemon and honey.
Hot chocolate made from a tin can? You might want to skip it. "Hot chocolate made from lower fat milk (dairy or otherwise) with real cocoa and a bit of sweetening is fine," Chuey says. "Made with water from a pseudo-cocoa chemical concoction? Not good."
For vegetable-based drinks such as V8 and Mott's Clamato, the best scenario would be to make your own or just eat your vegetables. "Although V8 and tomato juices can be nice for variety, these drinks are notoriously high in sodium," she says.
For this drink, think about additional toppings and calories. "The black "bubbles" are tapioca pearls that have been soaked in tea and 50 grams of the pearls are about 100 calories," she says. Bubble teas are also often high in sugar as well.