On This Day: 8th May 1886 Coca Cola Invented

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This year, Coca-Cola celebrates its 125-year anniversary. This soft drinks giant has managed to establish a worldwide presence over this period. At a time when obesity levels are rising and there is great talk about ‘healthy eating’, does Coca-Cola have a part to play in declining health?

Coca-Cola is essentially a caffeinated sugar drink, not exactly the most natural combination of ingredients. The brand is one that claims to “share happiness”, while public health experts hold the opposite view. They are under the impression that the intake of sugar in such large quantities has terrible consequences for public health.

In order to tackle this belief, the company have employed tactics formerly used by the tobacco industry. This includes doubting the scientific evidence, claims of a ‘nanny state’ and placing responsibility on the individual. This is important for soda companies like Coca-Cola as lots of evidence shows a positive correlation between regular intake of sugary drinks and poor health.

The public (especially children) are suffering as a result of consuming large amounts of soda; it has led to a sharp increase in the number of cases of type 2 diabetes and obesity. These two chronic diseases cause a great strain on the individual and can be very difficult to treat. Contracting such a disease can have devastating consequences for a person’s quality of life.

Dubious efforts have been made by Coca-Cola to refute these claims through funding scientific research to prove soda has no impact on obesity. They suggest the individual is accountable for the exercise they participate in and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

It was recently enforced that nutrition journals must declare where funding was secured from in scientific research. Coincidentally, 83% of studies funded by Coca-Cola came to the conclusion that there is no harm in consuming sugary drinks. On the contrary, the same percentage of studies funded by the government or independent bodies found that there is a clear link between soda and chronic diseases. This antagonistic information can make it difficult for the public to make a confident decision regarding their lifestyle choices.

“In order to tackle this belief, the company have employed tactics formerly used by the tobacco industry”

In the USA, Coca-Cola has been found to be sponsoring lunch-time meals, encouraging children to become accustomed to the drink. This can result in students continuing this unhealthy habit of consuming more than the recommend allowance of sugar a day well into adulthood.

Coca-Cola has used numerous marketing tools to sell their products, including celebrity endorsements, sponsoring major sports events and even associating themselves with Santa Claus. This has enabled them to appeal to a mass audience and target different demographics worldwide. Testament to this it the fact that “Coca-Cola” is the second most understood term globally, after “okay”.

Though this iconic drink is adored by millions, scientific evidence suggests that the public should think twice before they pick up their next bottle. As one of the world’s most well-known drinks, the company has (whether it chooses to acknowledge it or not) a great responsibility regarding public health.

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