Coke caught red-handed bankrolling major medical groups

The holiday season is right around the corner, which means the airwaves will soon be filled with ads designed to prey on nostalgia.

And you can bet some of the worst will come from Coca-Cola.

There will be heart-tugging commercials showing families gathering to "share a Coke and a smile." And cartoon polar bears frolicking in the snow before gulping down a frosty Coke.

They're all audience-tested right down to the last frame with the sole goal of bringing a tear to your eye and making you reach for a red and white can to create some cola-fueled holiday memories of your own.

You might even feel good about it, too, since you've heard that you can treat yourself to a little sugar in moderation and enjoy a few "bad calories" each day.

But before you reach for that can of soda, there's something you need to know -- because Coke isn't just funding those weepy holiday ads.

They're also funding the major medical groups that claim you can have some "bad calories" each day!

Over the past five years, the company has given $118 million in research grants to a virtual Who's Who of American medicine -- including $3.1 million to the American College of Cardiology.

Just two years ago, the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association issued a new set of guidelines that barely mentioned sugar. When it finally got around to sweets, it didn't say to eliminate added sugars, which is the only legitimate advice a responsible cardiologist could possibly give.

Instead, it told people to "limit" added sugars and "limit" sugar-sweetened beverages.

In other words, go ahead and have a soda -- just don't have one at every meal.

Coke has also given more than $3.5 million to the American Academy of Family Physicians, which also refuses to take a firm stand against added sugar, instead saying you can have 160 "empty calories" daily.

A can of Coke clocks in at 138 calories.

Coincidence?

Coke has also given millions to the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They've even paid off individual dietitians to write newspaper articles and give interviews claiming a little soda is OK.

Yes, mainstream medical advice is now every bit as much marketing as those tearjerker holiday ads -- only much more effective, since people believe it's the real deal and not the soft drink industry propaganda it really is.

So whether it's this coming holiday season or any other time of year, don't fall for the marketing hype in any form. The only safe level of added sugars in the diet is zero -- and that's the bottom line.