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Coca-Cola scandal reignites debate about whether to prioritize exercise or eating right
No Caption - photo by Kelsey Dallas
The soda industry is facing a public relations crisis.

Numerous studies have linked consumption of the sugary beverages to weight gain, as Deseret News National reported in June, and a recent Gallup survey found that more than 60 percent of Americans try to avoid the drink.

Coca-Cola, the world's largest soda producer, has found a creative way to combat this onslaught of negative press. "The beverage giant has teamed up with influential scientists" to downplay the importance of a healthy diet in the pursuit of weight loss, and instead emphasize the value of exercise "in medical journals, at conferences and through social media," The New York Times reported this week.

In other words, the company wants people to believe they can have their Coke and get fit, too.

The Times investigation of this effort sparked an outcry from health researchers, who said it's irresponsible for Coca-Cola and the scientists it supports to mislead consumers.

"Physical activity is important and certainly helps, experts say. But studies show that exercise increases appetite, causing people to consume more calories," and sabotage their weight-loss efforts, the Times reported.

Exercise benefits the body and mind, but it isn't as valuable for people who need to lose weight as eating healthy, nutritious foods, said Rutgers University-based diet and behavior expert Charlotte Markey to Scientific American.

"In most cases, (sustainable weight loss) has to involve dropping 300 or more calories per day," she said.

The issue with eating well and one reason why many consumers might be eager to believe the research Coca-Cola is funding is that it's often less satisfying than working out, especially when the number on the scale is slow to move, Markey added.

"Exercise makes people feel good. Avoiding food can just make people feel deprived," she said.

However, health research does hold some good news for people who prefer cardio over counting calories: sometimes developing an exercise habit naturally helps people eat better.

A new study from the Journal of American College Nutrition found that people who voluntarily adopt an exercise routine eat more fruits and vegetables than their couch-potato counterparts. The findings illustrate how one new healthy habit can quickly lead to more, researchers told Quartz.
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