Media Reports Soda Industry 'Study' as News

Customer Wendy Rosen pushes a shopping cart past a display of soft drinks at a Dollar General Corp. store in Saddle Brook, Ne
Customer Wendy Rosen pushes a shopping cart past a display of soft drinks at a Dollar General Corp. store in Saddle Brook, New Jersey, U.S., on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. Dollar General is scheduled to announce earnings results on Dec. 5. Photographer: Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

We thought it was a story from The Onion until we saw the headline running on the CNN ticker:

Study: Diet soda helps weight loss...Diet Soda Better Than Water For Weight Loss

This according to Dr. Jim Hill at University of Colorado's Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

Dr. Hill's counterintuitive conclusion made for an irresistible headline. The mainstream media ran it as news. It wasn't news. It was a paid advertisement from the American Beverage Association.

Here's how it works: Diet-Soda sales are in free fall. The beverage industry sees the writing on the wall. It's not hard to find a credible-sounding research institution that's short on funding. That's most of them. The soda company (or its lobbyists) generously offers to underwrite a "study" which then just happens to yield positive results that the company can use to sell their products.

Temple University and University of Colorado are among the latest to get into this business of research-for-hire. According to NYU professor Marion Nestle, Independent research shows that the likelihood of a favorable outcome to a product funded by the industry was 8 to 1. Research that's funded by corporations almost invariably benefits the interests of the funder. What a shock.

This is laid bare in FED UP when Katie Couric asks Dr. David Allison to explain the scientific reasoning behind his corporately funded study and he's rendered (literally) speechless.

Science is not on the side of diet soda and the ABA knows it. Most research has found that diet sodas actually make you hungrier. They trigger cravings for salty snacks like chips, burgers, and French Fries. When's the last time you craved a pear and a diet soda?

This weeks episode with Dr. Hill is the reason we made FED UP. Scientists and doctors taking soda money to do research on soda. Politicians on the payroll of the food and beverage industry shaping national nutrition standards. Outrageous conflicts of interest which go ignored.

"The public is confused about what to eat for really good reasons....we've been brainwashed.... This has been so carefully studied and carefully orchestrated by the big food companies that it's really almost like a war. And the nature of the war is to try to confuse us, and basically they have won," says NYT writer Mark Bittman.

Bittman is right, this is a war. On one side you've got the food/beverage industry, the universities that take their money, the doctors who sell off their degrees, and the mainstream media that amplify the marketing message disguised as science. On the other side you've got, well, the entire American public.