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University is Returning Coca-Cola’s $1 Million Donation

Update Date: Nov 07, 2015 10:40 AM EST
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The University of Colorado School of Medicine is returning Coca-Cola's $1 million donation.

Coca-Cola had donated the money back in 2014 to help create the Global Energy Balance Network, a group that encouraged people to focus more on exercise as opposed to eating habits. The group was heavily criticized for downplaying the role of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, on weight.

"While the network continues to advocate for good health through a balance of healthy eating habits and exercise, the funding source has distracted attention from its worthwhile goal," the university announced on Friday.

Coca-Cola has commented about the university's decision to return the money and stated that the money will be given to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

"While the network continues to support a vigorous scientific discussion of the contributions of dietary and physical activity behaviors to the obesity epidemic, it has become evident that the original vision for GEBN has not been realized," the company said.

James O. Hill, a professor at the University who co-founded the network, declined to comment.

"Even though the university probably returned the money out of embarrassment, it's smart that they did it," said Dr. Michael F. Jacobson, the executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest reported by the New York Times. "I hope this sets an example for other recipients of Coke money."

Dr. Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of "Soda Politics," also praised the university for returning the money.

"Both deserve congratulations for making a difficult but necessary decision. Let's hope other groups also decide to do the right thing and end such financial relationships," Dr. Nestle said.

Coca-Cola has a history of donating money to groups focused on health research. The company's chief executive, Muhtar Kent stated that since 2010, they have donated around $120 million for health research and partnerships with certain group, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Both of these groups have stated that they will be ending their partnership with Coca-Cola.

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