Coca-Cola, along with other multinational food companies, successfully lobbied health officials in Beijing to shift the focus of a state-sponsored health drive in schools away from diet and onto exercise, according to findings published in The Journal of Public Health Policy and the BMJ.
The study shows that Coca-Cola operated via a group named the International Life Sciences Institute to work with Chinese research and policy agencies. As the New York Times, who broke the story, report, the ILSI’s China headquarters are located inside the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the capital.
During a push by lawmakers to tackle the nation’s growing childhood obesity problem, initiatives like the Happy 10 Minutes program, encouraging ten minutes of exercise among school children a day, deliberately emphasised activity rather than cutting calories under the influence of Coca-Cola and others.
Fast food and confectionery companies have targeted developing economies such as China in recent years where regulation and attitudes towards public health are often more lenient.
China has seen a steep rise in diet-related diseases within the past two generations. Over 42% of Chinese adults are overweight or obese, the Times reports, twice the level in 1991. Close to a fifth of all children are obese in the country’s cities.