Is it possible that drinking a Coke with pizza cures anemia?
The lines between good, meaningful nutritional research and propaganda financed by certain economic and business interests keeps getting muddied by so-called scientific studies like this one that hope to prove Coca-Cola can serve as a healthy dietary supplement for people who have iron deficiency. This is NOT a joke!
Lead researcher Sue Fairweather-Tait, professor in the School of Medicine, Health Policy & Practice at the Norwich, England-based University of East Anglia (UEA), is recruiting 16 female volunteers to consume a pizza and a Coca-Cola so they can analyze what impact that will have on their iron levels. Iron deficiency leads to anemia when the red blood cells are lacking this key mineral.
When the Coca-Cola company caught wind of this proposed study, predictably they quickly ponied up the money to fund it. Well I wonder what THEIR interest could be in this study? Can you say marketing? Drink Coke for your health, they'll say. Oh brother! More about this in a moment.
Fairweather-Tait wanted to see if drinking a Coke helps the body to absorb more of the iron from the foods consumed. Since pizza is a popular food item, especially among the young women involved in the study, the researchers will have them eat a cheese and tomato pizza (no meat since that is metabolized differently) and wash it down with either a regular Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, or mineral water to see which beverage will be most effective in helping the body take in the iron from the food.
The idea for this suspicious study didn't just come out of thin air, though. It turns out Fairweather-Tait met with a former Coke CEO who put a bug in he ear about it. Oh really?! Just talking small talk about the weather, politics, and oh, by the way, did you hear drinking Coke helps with iron deficiency...PUHLEEZ!!!
Preliminary tests found that iron absorption was "pretty high" when a meal is complemented with a regular Coca-Cola. The researchers are excited to see if the same results bear out in their study.
"The volunteers come in and eat the pizza and have one of the drinks, then do the same the next day and we measure the iron level in the blood to see what affect the drink has," Fairweather-Tait explained. "Then we send them away and they come back a couple of weeks later and do it again."
What is the goal of the study from The Coca-Cola Company's perspective? If the findings hold true, then they can promote the heck out of their product being an inexpensive way to treat anemia brought on by iron deficiency--potentially a "huge boost" for the company at a time when they are under fire for contributing to the obesity epidemic.
Interestingly, Fairweather-Tait and Coca-Cola claim the results of the study, which should be released sometime near March 2008, will be published regardless of the results. How noble of them since it's probably already a foregone conclusion what they will find! Ridiculous propagandist research for the sake of the Almighty Dollar!
While I appreciate what Coke is doing trying to get stevia approved by the FDA as a sweetener, it is pure madness for them to pretend that their regular high fructose corn syrup-infested soft drinks are healthy for people to consume, iron deficiency or not. They've tried to make similar kinds of health claims before and nobody bought into it before.
The Coca-Cola Company has been bending over backwards over this past year trying to position themselves as a maker of products that are a part of a healthy lifestyle. We've seen it with their Enviga energy drink and most recently with Diet Coke Plus. While those are noble attempts to offer consumers better options, this new study they are funding is grasping at straws in a fit of desperation to lift the cloud of scorn that has been hanging over them because of the extremely high sugar content of their regular sodas.
Regardless of what this study finds, the stigma is still gonna stick! Perhaps Coke should keep looking at ways to REDUCE or ELIMINATE the HFCS altogether from their product if they truly care about the health of their customers. Something to think about!
You can e-mail Sue Fairweather-Tait about her study at firstname.lastname@example.org.