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The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Grazie mille!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Secret to Weight Loss? Exercise and All the Coca-Cola You Can Drink

Just Ask the “Experts” On Coke's Payroll

Let's face it, virtues are no fun. Chastity, diligence, charity, patience, kindness, humility, temperance? BOR-ING! Ah, but vices! Those are a blast! Pride, envy, sloth, greed, wrath, lust, gluttony – especially gluttony. Where would we be as a society today without gluttony?

A few killjoys out there say we'd all be slimmer, trimmer, and healthier. These Debbie Downers would have us believe that we can beat back diabetes and bust obesity by not filling our faces with kajillions of unnecessary empty calories like the kind you find in snack foods and sugar-saturated soft drinks. These spoilsports would piss on our parade by telling us that we can't be healthy if we keep chowing down on potato chips and cookies and candy bars and guzzling gallons of syrupy beverages.

“Pish-posh,” says a new panel of “experts.” “What a load of hooey! Our latest research reveals that the doomsayers put wa-a-ay too much emphasis on diet. Exercise, exercise, exercise! That's the real key. Lots of activity. And if all that exercise and activity makes you a little thirsty, just slug down a couple of liters of Coke and you'll be refreshed, satisfied, and healthy as a horse.”

Did I mention that these new “experts” are on the payroll of the Coca-Cola Company? Yeah.

Well, they didn't actually say the part about slugging down Coke, but it was inferred from what they did say, which was, “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.”

That drivel dribbled from the lips of University of South Carolina professor Steven N. Blair, a so-called “exercise scientist” acting as front man for the newly formed – and Coca-Cola funded – Global Energy Balance Network. This New Age-sounding, supposedly non-profit group cites two research papers that say there is “strong evidence” that the key to preventing weight gain is not reducing food intake, but “maintaining an active lifestyle and eating more calories.” The fine print on each scholarly treatise comes in the form of a footnote that reads: “The publication of this article was supported by The Coca-Cola Company.”

Does this sound the least little bit like the same rhetoric that has always flown around tobacco-related health issues? “Scientists,” operating under the aegis of R.J. Reynolds, who flatly state that there is no “evidence” linking cigarettes to cancer?

So let me see if I've got this straight: decades and decades of research by thousands and thousands of doctors, dieticians, nutritionists, food scientists, and a cadre of other folks with lots of letters after their names is now to be disregarded? Research in which a balance of healthy diet and adequate physical activity are promoted as critical to overall well-being is now being kicked to the curb by a handful of shills in the employ of a major soft drink manufacturer?

Dr. Blair and his cohorts stridently deny being on the dole from Coke. Certainly, the fact that the soda giant donated millions towards the outfit's startup should be irrelevant. As should the $3.5 million in funding Dr. Blair has received from Coke over the last few years to fund his “research.” And should we be in any way suspicious of the one million dollar “unrestricted monetary gift” that Coca-Cola gave to Dr. James O. Hill, a professor at the the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the group’s president? Oh, the money actually went to the University of Colorado Foundation, but when faced with a request made under the Colorado Open Records Act, the school said that Coke had provided the money “for the purposes of funding” the Global Energy Balance Network. And the money that Coca-Cola supplied to Gregory A. Hand, currently dean of the West Virginia University School of Public Health and a former USC crony of Blair? Well, that $806,500 for an “energy flux” study in 2011 and the $507,000 supplied last year to establish the Global Energy Balance Network should in no way be construed as influence. Hand says, “It makes perfect sense that companies would want the best science that they can get.” Would that be the same thing as the best science money can buy?

Nor should it be in any way suspect that the group's website is registered to Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters and that Coke is also listed as the site's administrator. President Hill deflects that contention by stating that the only reason Coke is in charge of all that web stuff is because nobody in his group knew how to register a website.

Wait! Wait un fottuto minuto! This guy, this “professor,” this “doctor,” this man who wants us to believe in his pazzo proclamation regarding our health is going to stand there with his cazzo faccia hanging out and tell us that among all the learned gentlemen involved in his endeavor, not one of them has the knowledge and ability that my thirteen-year-old niece has to set up and maintain a website?! What kind of idioti does he think he's dealing with?

And speaking of that website, the Network forgot to mention any affiliation with Coca-Cola or any funding therefrom until somebody pinned their ass to the mat over it. Then they started spouting stuff like, “They’re not running the show. We’re running the show.” And, “As soon as we discovered that we didn’t have not only Coca-Cola but other funding sources on the website, we put it on there. Does that make us totally corrupt in everything we do?”

Short answer? Yes.

Unlike the esteemed Dr. Blair, I'm no scientist. I don't think I've ever even played one on TV. But I do have a BS detector, and it's emitting an earsplitting tone right now. “Virtually” no evidence, he says? How about some literal evidence, then. It takes about an hour to walk off a twenty-ounce bottle of Coke. If you consume a 2- liter bottle – like a lot of people do – that's about three-and-a-half hours of walking. Hey, I've got better things to do with three-and-a-half hours. You know how long it takes my body to process an equivalent amount of water with a little lemon? About as long as it takes for a couple of trips to the bathroom. Come back and talk to me, “Dr.” Blair, after Coke removes its hand from your pocket.

Actually, Doc, I'm thinking of investing in a company that makes screen doors for submarines. I need you and your pals to churn out a couple of scholarly papers citing something other than an excess of water as the reason boats sink. Downplay the whole screen door thing and concentrate on a lack of positive buoyancy and inverse ratios and all that other scientific stuff. You know, obfuscate. Or, in simpler terms, if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit.

Of course, Coke has a carefully measured response to the whole imbroglio, citing their “long history” of supporting scientific research related to their beverages and topics such as energy balance. “We partner with some of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and physical activity,” Coke's statement says. “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.” Uh-huh. Would it surprise you that a recent analysis of studies funded by Coke, Pepsi, the American Beverage Association and the sugar industry found that such studies were five times more likely to find no link between sugary drinks and weight gain than studies not funded by companies with a stake in the results?

“Transparent” seems to be a good buzzword here. Coke touts transparency in its statement and the Global Energy Balance Network says it has no problem with accepting funding from Coca-Cola because they are being so “transparent” about it. Of course, that transparency only came about after somebody forced them to wash their windows.

Ever since soft drink sales started heading for the precipice in the 1990s, Coke has been flogging the idea that obesity has nothing to do with consuming empty calories. They would have you believe that if you just go out and run a couple of extra laps, you can swill down all the Coke you want and never gain an ounce. Kind of like smoking all the cigarettes you want is okay as long as you don't inhale. And you can't blame them. After all, they're in the business of pandering to gluttony. Nobody “needs” a Coke, you know. And when people start bringing all that annoying temperance onto the playing field, well......the company's got to do something. And so they've funded a scholarly “network ” of abettors and buffoons to make their case for them, all under the auspices of “science.”

Don't buy it, folks. Don't drink the Kool-Aid.......or, in this case, the Coca-Cola. These are not independent scientists operating with your health and welfare at heart. They are a gaggle of geese honking out a corporate philosophy, a company of marionettes whose strings are being pulled from 1 Coca Cola Plaza NW in Atlanta. They'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony......as long as Coke is providing the melody. And I think their respective universities should all be evaluating their qualifications.

By my calculations, you've spent about seven minutes reading this little rant. I'm sorry to have taken so much of your time, because that's about six-and-a-half minutes more than the lunacy this pack of pandering, money grubbing clowns is promoting deserves.

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