Coca-Cola ads to address obesity for first time

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NEW YORK (AP) — Coca-Cola became one of the world’s most powerful brands by equating its soft drinks with happiness. Now it’s taking to the airwaves for the first time to address a growing cloud over the industry: obesity.

The Atlanta-based company on Monday began airing a two-minute spot on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC in hopes of flexing its marketing muscle in the debate over sodas and their impact on public health. The ad lays out Coca-Cola’s record of providing drinks with fewer calories and notes that weight gain is the result of consuming too many calories of any kind — not just soda.

New research in the past year also suggests that sugary drinks cause people to pack on the pounds independent of other behavior. A decades-long study involving more than 33,000 Americans, for example, suggested that drinking sugary beverages interacts with genes that affect weight and enhances a person’s risk of obesity beyond what it would be from heredity alone.

Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, was skeptical about Coca-Cola’s ads and said the company would stop fighting soda taxes if it was serious about helping reduce obesity.

“It looks like a page out of damage control 101,” he said. “They’re trying to disarm the public.”

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