Soda-funded Russell Pate is in charge of the Activity Guidelines’s child health sub-committee.
CrossFit Inc. has attempted to issue a public comment on the U.S. federal government’s upcoming 2018 National Physical Activity Guidelines. The Activity Guidelines website has not permitted our public comment to be posted yet. CrossFit’s unpublished public comment is available below, as is the longer PDF document attached to it.
This effort falls within CrossFit Founder Greg Glassman’s overall strategy of driving Big Soda out of health science and policy. The Guidelines’ advisory committee includes individuals with major conflicts of interest, who have promoted ineffective and industry-friendly propaganda. We have covered the problems with the Activity Guidelines on this blog and given a public testimony on this topic at the National Institutes of Health.
The Activity Guidelines site says “comments are reviewed for profanity and duplicate submissions prior to publishing.” Our public comment contained no profanity. We reached out to the Health and Human Services email for help on Monday (via firstname.lastname@example.org). As of publication, we have received no response.
89 other public comments have been approved and posted on the Physical Activity Guidelines website, including many duplicate submissions from an organization called Salud America. When we made our first submission attempt on 3/17, a comment by Michelle Segar from three days prior had already been reviewed, approved and posted.
Below is the public comment we attempted to post. And here is our full 13-page PDF, entitled “The Unmitigated Soda Industry Corruption of Public Health Policy.” It provides external sources that substantiate our concerns about the soda industry influencing federal health policy.
Soda companies blame chronic disease on inactivity, instead of their own products. Yet why should the US Government promote this propaganda to the public?
Effective health policy must be free from industry influence. For at least two generations, however, United States health guidelines have failed to meet this standard. Recent revelations proved that the sugar industry covertly influenced NIH sugar policy, as well as the USDA and HHS’s national dietary guidelines. It is no surprise that these policies failed to protect Americans from the spread of Type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and other manifestations of chronic disease. By alternately denying and ignoring the toxicity of sugar, U.S. health policy has been complicit in the deadly spread of chronic disease, which kills an estimated 1.8 million Americans yearly.
Furthermore, these federal agencies seem incapable of warding off conflicts of interest until the press exposes them. Top CDC official Barbara Bowman “retired” last year after U.S. Right to Know published emails between her and a Coca-Cola proxy organization called The International Life Sciences Institute. The emails showed Bowman giving advice to Coca-Cola/ILSI on how to influence the World Health Organization.
Some of the government’s own public health employees cannot stand the corruption any longer. A group of CDC scientists filed an anonymous ethics complaint last year that detailed the frightening length to which Coca-Cola-funded scientists seem to enjoy free reign at the agency. The complaint also covered how the CDC sent Congress “manipulated” and “cooked” data regarding the Wise Woman heart disease prevention program. Unfortunately, there is no sign that the upcoming National Physical Activity Guidelines will escape this trap of sugar and soda industry bias.
CrossFit, Inc. recommends that the federal government enforce effective conflict of interest policies at the institutional, personnel, and research review levels. Federal health institutions should not be taking money from soda companies. Nor should federal health institution foundations such as the CDC and NIH Foundations accept soda money. Federal health institutions should partner with the soda industry by co-funding its research, representatives, and initiatives. Why should the federal government help the soda industry market its products and lobby against public health?
The government should also prohibit federal health personnel from simultaneously working for soda companies and their funded proxies. For example, no currently employed official at the CDC or NIH should be permitted to accept positions at, or funding from, the International Life Sciences Institute. And Russell Pate, a long-term ILSI board member who has accepted at least hundreds of thousands of junk food dollars, has no proper place anywhere near physical activity or dietary guidelines. If Pate has any say, our nation’s health guidelines might look more like the junk food industry’s sugar-saturated Kidnetic.com than anything resembling a balanced diet and functional exercise. After all, Pate is Kidnetic’s scientific advisor, meaning he helped the industry market breakfasts with 40+ grams of sugar per serving as health food appropriate for children.
Finally, federal research reviews, such as those conducted by the National Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee, must take funding bias into account. A Coca-Cola-funded study on Type 2 diabetes should not receive the same weight as an independent study. This preventative measure is simply achieved, as the contractor handling NPAGAC’s literature review is capable of accounting for funding sources.
Fully implementing effective conflict of interest policies would require scrapping the entire advisory committee and much of its federal oversight. Even if NPAGAC did reform its ways and begin to take conflicts of interest into account, the repeated failure of NPAGAC members and their colleagues to disclose their conflicts demonstrates that it is extremely difficult to identify physical activity researchers who are free from conflicts. Soda-funded researchers have repeatedly misled the public regarding the influence of the industry and its proxies on their work. Thus, it is also extremely difficult to fully account for the influence of the soda industry on American exercise science, a necessary precondition for sound physical activity guidelines.
Accordingly, CrossFit’s final recommendation is that the federal government refrain from implementing or enforcing the upcoming National Physical Activity Guidelines. Such a step would only expand the reach of soda-corrupted science. The American College of Sports Medicine, another soda proxy, has advocated for requiring these guidelines by law. That would be convenient for ACSM partners Coke and Pepsi, yet it would surely constitute an abuse of taxpayer funds and the public trust.