The stock-in-trade of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is hyperbole. And its newest campaign, “The Real Bears,” is more of the same. Whether the group is calling fettuccine alfredo a “heart attack on a plate” or claiming that everything from French fries to coffee needs a cancer warning label, the group blows risks out of proportion in the service of a peculiar secular Puritanism. Shoot, CSPI boss Michael “Carrot Juice” Jacobson all but said it: “This is our attempt to reposition soft drinks from a source of happiness to a major cause of disease.”
Using the help of former Al Gore ad man Alex Bogusky (more on him here), CSPI shows how sodas supposedly ruin a happy family of polar bears. The usual tropes all appear, including leg amputatation. And straight from a PETA advert, there are claims that ingesting a supposedly evil substance will lead to “other issues” in the bedroom (if you, ahem, catch our drift).
Is CSPI at least right in saying that soda will make you fat? Again, no. If you consume non-diet soda and fail to compensate by eating less of something else or by engaging in physical activity (which has benefits in its own right) then over time, you can gain weight. If you do compensate, you won’t. It’s a matter of balance.
And by the way, people are compensating in another way, too. According to a report in the USA Today, Americans are drinking about 60 fewer calories from soda than they did in 2000 and replacing regular sodas with zero-calorie diet drinks. CSPI won’t be happy about that—they have, after all, attacked the sweeteners in diet drinks with a “new rat study” even after human research conducted by the National Cancer Institute found sweeteners safe (again)—at least in part because it puts another hole in the tired false comparison of soda with tobacco.
In all, CSPI’s latest stunt is just more tired neo-Puritan nonsense from an anti-corporate activist group. Excuse us for thinking that this looks more like propaganda than science.