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Lobbyists for the sports drink industry: an example of the rise of “contrarianism” in modern scientific debate
  1. Timothy David Noakes1,
  2. Dale B Speedy2
  1. 1MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Sports Science Institute of South Africa, Newlands, South Africa
  2. 2Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor T D Noakes
 MRC/UCT Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Sports Science Institute of South Africa, PO Box 115, Newlands 7725, South Africa; timothy.noakes{at}

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We welcome any discussion of our article which traces the emergence, especially in the United States of America, of exercise-associated hyponatraemia (EAH) as a novel disease, even though its aetiology had already been established by us. We appreciate that some may wish to distance themselves from involvement in this affair. But this is not a sound basis for an objective scientific debate. We choose to respond first to Dr Murray’s letter.

In his position as Director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), Dr Murray is a full-time employee of PepsiCo, which is a publicly listed company in the USA. The principal accountability of a publicly listed company like PepsiCo and its subsidiary, Gatorade, is to increase the wealth of its shareholders. This follows from the landmark case of Ford versus the Dodge Brothers heard in the Michigan Supreme Court in 1916.1

In his otherwise uncritical review of the Gatorade phenomenon, Rovell2 touches on this legal accountability: “This lack of change (in the Gatorade formulation) has caused some people to be sceptical as to the true function of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) which has funded more than 120 studies in the past 17 years. Is GSSI there to develop the latest and greatest sports drink formula for the masses, or is it there to use science to best defend the status quo? Is it really possible that nothing substantial has come along in sports drink science in the past four decades that would make Gatorade a better drink? There are, after all, very few product categories that fail to evolve over four decades” (pp 194–195). “…..But it is undeniable that GSSI was also created to be part of Gatorade’s powerful marketing arm” (p 195). “…..Having the Gatorade Sports Science Institute does mean walking a fine line …

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  • Competing interests: TDN’s research unit receives an annual research grant from Bromor Pty Ltd, the manufacturers of the South African sports drink Energade. TDN receives no personal financial benefit, either at present or promised in the future, as a result of this relationship. DS has no conflicts of interest.