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Coke: No 'magic bullet' for America's obesity epidemic

We agree with The Sun's editors that obesity is one of the country's most serious health issues ("A new kind of cola war," Oct. 22). However, targeting soda alone, absent a focus on actions and efforts to achieve healthier diets and lifestyles, will not result in our collective goal of healthier communities.

To manage weight, most experts agree the key is an active, healthy lifestyle. There are many factors that underpin these three words, but I will focus on two — a balanced, sensible diet and regular physical activity. These two components are key to achieving a healthy energy balance.

Consequently, a singular focus on soft drinks will not reverse the situation. Despite what was proposed, it is not the "magic pill" — there is no single solution. And as an old saying reminds us, the simple answer isn't right, and the right answer isn't simple.

Data from the federal Centers for Disease Control recently showed people consume more sugar from foods than from beverages. Moreover, sugar consumption from soda has decreased by nearly 40 percent, and regular, sugar-sweetened beverages represent only about 7 percent of the calories Americans consume.

The Coca-Cola Company offers and promotes a wide range of beverages, including more than 180 diet and light beverages in the U.S. We do this because we believe in providing people with options that work for them and their families. We believe in helping people achieve a healthy energy balance and we do so by actively promoting our diet and light products. Coke Zero has become a billion-dollar brand, and beverages like Bethesda-based Honest Tea are widely available.

Coca-Cola believes in giving people the information they need to make the right decisions for themselves and their families. We led the initiative to place calorie information on the front of our packages and vending machines and to offer smaller-portion cans in many of our beverages. Our company supports innovative fitness and nutrition education programs across the country. For example, this year we've held multiple youth fitness events in partnership with Baltimore's professional sports teams. And we have provided similar opportunities across the U.S.

Beginning in 2006, Coca-Cola, along with other beverage industry partners, voluntarily began providing only low- and no-calorie beverages to all schools. Today, 90 percent fewer calories are shipped to schools nationally. This is an extension of our 60-year long commitment to not advertise to children under the age of 12.

We are a business with employees, friends and families in the Baltimore area, and we care about the health of our collective community, locally and everywhere we do business. Addressing this challenge will require comprehensive efforts working across all sectors in the community, including businesses, government and civil society. While there may be different views, it's clear we must come together — and work together — to find meaningful solutions to obesity.

Rhona Applebaum

The writer is vice president and chief science and health officer for The Coca-Cola Company.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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