The University of Colorado School of Medicine has announced that it is giving back a $1 million grant that it received from the Coca-Cola Co. The money had been given to the school to help create the Global Energy Balance Network, a nonprofit organization that had the stated purpose of advocating for good health by balancing diet and exercise.
However, after a New York Times article reported on Coca-Cola's financial ties to the network, there was criticism that the soda maker had set up the network as a way to push research on obesity in directions other than reducing consumption of sugary beverages like soda. The network was accused of playing down the link between soft drinks and obesity.
"While the network continues to advocate for good health through a balance of healthy eating habits and exercise, the funding source has distracted attention from its worthwhile goal," the school said in a statement. "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."
Other recipients of financial support from Coca-Cola had included the American Academy of Pediatrics, which accepted $3 million to launch its healthychildren.org website, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which received $1.7 million. After the articles in The New York Times, both organizations said they were ending their relationship with Coca-Cola.
After the announcement of the return of the funds from the University of Colorado, Coca-Cola announced that it will donate the money to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
The Global Energy Balance Network was founded by James O. Hill, a professor at Colorado and Steven Blair, an exercise scientist at the University of South Carolina. In August, the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group, circulated a letter signed many scientists and health authorities that accused the network of "peddling scientific nonsense."