True, False or Misleading: Evaluating Health and Fitness Claims

Not everyone supports CrossFit’s campaign to fight chronic disease and remove Big Soda from the health sciences. Perhaps some of the critics really care about the health of the nation. If that is their true motivation, however, they should stick to the facts when defending Big Soda, or claiming that CrossFit affiliates are dangerous. So we hope that these critics appreciate CrossFit’s efforts to hold them accountable for their statements.

Let’s look at some recent claims and see if they are true, false or misleading.

Second Opinion vs. CrossFit
First, take a look at this segment of Second Opinion LIVE, funded by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.

The guest says,

CrossFit has the injury rate of a contact sport … There is a research study. Our own Dr. Giordano of U of R did it.

The Verdict: FALSE
The Giordano study actually found that the injury rate in CrossFit “is significantly less than what is observed in contact or team sports.” In other words, the study the guest cited found the opposite of what she claimed.

(The network that produces this show took it down after we contacted them, so we uploaded a segment here).

Coca-Cola Amatil vs. Transparency
The Russells’ Blog sparked an exposé of Coca-Cola’s funding of Australia’s Exercise is Medicine program. Coca-Cola publicly responded to the pressure in Australia in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation article, “Coca-Cola Amatil: Soft drink giant says one can a week not unhealthy, as obesity row rages.”

Alison Watkins, the managing director of Coca-Cola’s regional bottling company, Coca-Cola Amatil, alleged,

If you consume one can like that a week, no, I don’t think that’s unhealthy.

The Verdict: MISLEADING 
How would Watkins feel about the following statement?

If you smoke one cigarette a week, no, I don’t think that’s unhealthy.

Humans tend to over-consume sugar and tobacco, and so encouraging “moderate” usage ultimately promotes unsafe over-consumption. While it may be true that consuming one cigarette or can of soda a week won’t kill you, very few stop there.

How do we know soda is habit-forming? Soda executives told us:

Coca-Cola Femsa executives said in early 2014 that some consumers were foregoing purchases of personal care items such as toilet paper and laundry detergent so that they could still buy soda.

What do you call a substance that makes habitual users forego “toilet paper and laundry detergent” to purchase?

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Let’s examine the other major Coca-Cola Amatil claim in this article:

… Ms. Watkins from Coca-Cola Amatil said that kind of lobbying did not happen in Australia.  “We don’t sponsor any research ourselves,” she said.

Whether or not Coca-Cola’s bottlers fund research in Australia, the Coca-Cola corporation itself definitely does. Coca-Cola Amatil knows this, so their disavowal of research sponsorship is concerning. In fact, they told ABC that,

the Australian arm of the Coca-Cola company will be disclosing details of its funding to research organisations in a couple of months.

ACSH vs. Prediabetes

Last week we exposed the American Council on Science and Health’s misstatements about prediabetes and its history of industry influence. ACSH President Hank Campbell has responded, but not effectively. Nearly every line Campbell wrote is false or misleading.

He (Greg Glassman) insists, incorrectly, that Coca-Cola ‘causes’ a condition that no one even agrees exists – ‘pre-diabetes’ …

The Verdict: FALSE
It’s not clear how Campbell can maintain that no one agrees that prediabetes exists when PubMed contains over 6,000 studies mentioning prediabetes. Some people must agree then that prediabetes exists. Campbell continues:

… Glassman claimed an unrestricted grant from Coca-Cola six years ago meant we were somehow shills for them …

The Verdict: FALSE
The Coca-Cola grant to ACSH was 3, not 6 years ago. That Campbell is falsely increasing the time elapsed suggests that he realizes that a Coke grant is an embarrassment. This might be a positive development. Campbell also writes that Glassman,

… claimed if we denied his beliefs about nutrition, we must also deny cancer exists.

The Verdict: FALSE
Glassman made no such claim. Instead he tweeted, “So $80K from Coke and pre-diabetes doesn’t exist. How much would you ask to deny pre-cancerous growths?”

Campbell writes:

He then sent one of his infamous social media thugs to threaten and libel ACSH.

The Verdict: FALSE

The only time CrossFit made a “threat” against Campbell was in Campbell’s own mind. That didn’t stop Campbell from worrying on Facebook about Navy SEALs breaking his arms, however:
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I specifically offered to correct any of the “libel” or false information that Campbell thought we’d made, if he could support his claim with evidence. He declined.

His final claim:

Sugar is sugar, there is no special sugar that causes diabetes, nor is there a magic bullet where banning a food prevent diabetes. It’s irresponsible to claim there is.

The Verdict: MISLEADING 

CrossFit never claimed that sugar was not sugar. CrossFit never advocated for “banning a food.”

ACSM Presenters vs. Science
In February, the ACSM blog posted “Active Voice: Precisely, What Do We Mean— Force, Work & Power?” by Dr. Howard G. Knuttgen. The former ACSM president reported that,

Having participated in ACSM’s 2015 annual meeting in San Diego … I was greatly disappointed with the frequent inappropriate use of the term “work.” While “work” in everyday language can refer to anything from a vocation to a composition of music, for science and medicine it is defined in the international system of measurement as, “the product of a force component by the magnitude of displacement (distance)” …

in every instance where the presenter inappropriately identified the physical activity as “work” he/she then quantified the performance in watts, the international unit for Power. If an investigator does, indeed, wish to present the total work involved in a physical activity, the international unit must be the joule (J) which is independent of time. Work performed per unit of time is Power, the measure of the exercise intensity.

Verdict: TRUE

We can end on a positive note. Russell Berger, Greg Glassman and I attended the 2015 ACSM Annual Meeting. We can enthusiastically verify Dr. Knuttgen’s assessment of the presenters’ scientific shortcomings. And Knuttgen is correct; work is equal to force multiplied by distance. Divide work by time and you get power, which is how we measure intensity. It would be nice if ACSM presenters heeded Knuttgen’s advice. Maybe they’ll create a standard definition and measurement of fitness, too.

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