Anyone over the age of four or so knows water is a healthier choice than soda, but that hasn't stopped Big Soda from trying to prove otherwise. Coca-Cola and Pepsi have ponied up big bucks to bankroll studies that claim drinking diet soda is better for weight loss than water.
The latest review to be called into question was published by the International Journal of Obesity, reports Consumerist, and concluded that diet soda's effect on weight "appear[s] neutral relative to water, or even beneficial in some contexts." The Independent points out that while the review included 5,500 different studies, "only one paper, funded by the American Beverage Association, found that those drinking diet drinks were more likely to lose weight." The American Beverage Association is a powerful lobbying group that has spent millions fighting against soda taxes like the one that recently passed in Berkeley, Calif.
The group that funded the review, the International Life Sciences Institute, has a board of directors that includes "executives from Coca-Cola, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Unilever" — and if that wasn't damning enough, the ILSI "also directly paid some of the academics involved around $1,090 each."
Of course, spending money on dubious scientific research is nothing new for the soda industry: Consumers were outraged when it was recently revealed that Coca-Cola funneled millions of dollars into a nonprofit called the Global Energy Balance Network, which attempted to prove that exercise habits, not diet, was to blame for the obesity epidemic, and insisted that Coke could be part of a balanced diet. (The GEBN disbanded soon after.)
Indeed, many commonly held beliefs about health and nutrition were actually the result of corporate-funded studies; the notion that dark chocolate is good for you came from research paid for by big candy manufacturer Mars, Inc., for example. Moral of the story? Don't believe everything you read, even if it's written by someone with a Ph.D, and particularly if it rails against common sense.