Coke-funded group swayed China's obesity efforts, papers say

FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2008 file photo, a young girl mimics the pose of a Chinese Olympic athletes depicted in Coca-Cola advertising, at the Olympic green in Beijing. The International Life Science Institute, a group funded by the food industry, undermined China’s efforts to keep obesity rates in check by overemphasizing the importance of physical activity rather than dietary restrictions, according to a new paper. The group sponsored obesity conferences on exercise science with speakers including Coke-funded researchers and a Coke executive. ILSI says it does not profess to have been perfect, but that it has adopted stricter guidelines. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Dalziel)

NEW YORK (AP) — New research says a food industry-funded group undermined China's efforts to keep obesity rates in check by overemphasizing the importance of physical activity rather than dietary habits.

The International Life Sciences Institute was created by a former Coke executive and is funded by companies including McDonald's, PepsiCo and Red Bull. In China, it organized obesity conferences focusing on physical activity, with speakers including Coke-funded researchers and a Coke executive. The group enjoyed close ties to government health agencies, according to papers in The BMJ and The Journal of Public Health Policy.

Susan Greenhalgh, a Harvard scholar who wrote the papers, says ILSI's activities show the difficulty in assessing how food makers could skew public policy around the world.

ILSI says it "does not profess to have been perfect" in its 40-year history.

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