Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
The Rudd Center Health Digest

June 2009

Rudd Center Seminar Series


Barry M. Popkin, PhD, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition; Director, Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The Spring Seminar Series has finished for the semester. Speakers included Barry Popkin, an expert on global obesity from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Christina Economos from Tufts University, a leader in the prevention of childhood obesity. Stay tuned for an announcement in August about the exciting lineup of Fall Seminar Series speakers who will present their work as it relates to topics of obesity, weight bias, and food policy.

Rudd Center Offers New Video Exposing Weight Prejudice

*A must-see and must-share for parents, teachers, and children*

Overweight and obese youth are frequently teased, tormented, and victimized because of their weight. Weight-based teasing and stigma (also called “weight bias”) can have a detrimental impact on both emotional and physical health.

The Rudd Center has released a new video, called Weight Prejudice: Myths & Facts, to increase youth awareness about weight bias and to highlight strategies to help combat this rapidly growing problem for overweight adolescents. This video tells the story of Bene, a girl who is teased about and victimized for her weight. In response to the daily teasing she confronts at school, Bene decides to educate her classmates about weight bias by making her own “undercover” video to address the stigma that overweight youth encounter. Bene’s story is based on true-to-life examples of the bias that overweight youth encounter.

The video is the third in a series of Rudd Center videos. The other two focused on weight bias in health care, and at home and school.

Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research & Weight Stigma Initiatives, co-authored a paper about weight bias in youth. The study found that the negative consequences of weight bias include: social exclusion, low self-esteem, reduced academic and earning potential, avoidance of physical activity, eating disorders, and even suicide.

All three videos can be viewed on the Rudd Center website’s Weight Bias section or Yale’s YouTube channel. To receive a free DVD of any of the videos, please email the Rudd Center and specify which DVD(s) you would like to receive.

Nutrition Information Rarely Accessed; Menu Postings Recommended

In an analysis of consumer behavior at major chain restaurants, Rudd Center researchers discovered that fewer than 1 percent of patrons accessed nutrition information.

The article, “An Observational Study of Consumers' Accessing of Nutrition Information in Chain Restaurants,” was written by Christina Roberto, MS, a PhD student in Yale’s Clinical Psychology program; Henry Agnew, a Yale undergraduate student; and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director. It was published in the May 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The authors determined how frequently consumers accessed nutrition information provided on the premises of chain restaurants. The number of patrons entering and accessing nutrition information was recorded at eight locations that were part of four major chain restaurants (McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks, and Au Bon Pain). Six (0.1%) of 4,311 patrons accessed nutrition information at the restaurant before they purchased food. This very small percentage suggests that nutrition information should be more prominently displayed, such as on restaurant menu boards, to help customers make informed decisions.

“Unless information is specifically posted on menus and menu boards, it is likely to benefit very few customers,” according to Dr. Brownell.

Spotlight on the Yale Sustainable Food Project


The Yale Sustainable Food Project leads an ambitious program to change the way our nation eats and thinks about food. The Project educates Yale undergraduates about the relationship between food, agriculture, and the environment. The focus involves academic, extracurricular educational, and Yale Farm programs. The Project also teams up with Yale Dining to source local and sustainable food and create seasonal recipes for Yale’s dining halls.

The Sustainable Food Project has collaborated with the Rudd Center by co-hosting events and speakers, including Marion Nestle, PhD, Paulette Goddard Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University.

The Project works to foster a culture that draws meaning and pleasure from the connections between land and food. The connection is most tangible at the Yale Farm. The Farm is a one-acre organic urban garden located on Yale’s campus. It offers students and community members the chance to learn about growing food and preparing it in the Farm’s wood-fired brick oven. During the school year, student and community volunteers maintain the garden through weekly workdays. Each summer, six Yale undergraduates learn the theory and practice of sustainable agriculture as Lazarus Summer Interns at the Yale Farm. These students spend the summer tending the Farm and attending classes and conferences.

Starting on June 18, the Farm is open to visitors and volunteers each Thursday and Friday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. The Sustainable Food Project will also host two Community Workdays on June 14 and July 12 from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The day will feature tours of the Yale Farm, farm work for volunteers, and pizza from the Farm’s oven at the end of the day. The Farm is located on Edwards Street between Prospect and Whitney Streets in New Haven, Connecticut. All are welcome.

Get Social with the Rudd Center

Stay up-to-date on the latest news on food policy, obesity, and weight bias research by following the Rudd Center on Twitter or joining the Facebook group.

Employment Opportunities at the Rudd Center

Visit the Rudd Center Employment page to learn about opportunities to become part of the Rudd Center team.

Spotlight on Rudd Center Affiliated Faculty: Jennifer Prah Ruger, PhD, MSc

Jennifer Prah Ruger is an Associate Professor in the Division of Health Policy and Administration at the Yale School of Public Health. In this role, she teaches Social, Economic, and Political Dimensions of Development; and Global Health Ethics, Politics, and Economics.

She is the past Co-Director of the Yale/World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion, Policy and Research and was an Interdisciplinary Research Methods Core Investigator for the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS. Her research focuses on equity and efficiency of health system access, financing, resource allocation, policy reform, and the social determinants of health.

Dr. Ruger is collaborating with the Rudd Center on a new way of thinking about obesity and undernutrition. She is creating a novel conceptual model and measurement tool for the study of obesity and undernutrition as a “health capability failure.” Health capability advances the understanding of the conditions that help or hinder people’s health and their ability to make healthy choices. It is socially dependent because a person’s external environment either enhances or detracts from it. It offers a more accurate evaluation of social policies and change.

Dr. Ruger earned her MSc from Oxford University and PhD from Harvard University.

She has published articles in Lancet, American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and Health Affairs. She has received the Donaghue Investigator Award and the Career Development Award from the National Institutes of Health.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Michael W. Hamm, PhD
C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, Departments of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, Crop and Soil Sciences, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Michigan State University

Barry M. Popkin, PhD
Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition; Director, Interdisciplinary Center for Obesity, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Our collection of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine – Nutrition & Obesity category. You also may subscribe to an RSS Feed that will automatically update whenever new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

Thomas Frieden Appointed as Chief of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

President Barack Obama appointed New York City's crusading health commissioner, Thomas Frieden, MD, to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the public health agency that spearheads the nation's fight against obesity. Dr. Frieden is a fierce proponent of a soda tax. Obama advisers and some Senate staff members have been talking about such a tax, which would not apply to diet soda or real juice, as a way to help pay for expanded health insurance. For the full articles, click here and here.

New NYC Health Chief: Obesity Fight Not Enough

The New York City needs to go beyond posting calorie counts on menus to seriously address its obesity problem, said Dr. Thomas Farley, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's incoming health commissioner. More than half of New York City adults are overweight or obese, and the city's law requiring chain restaurants to post calorie counts on menus may not go far enough in trying to improve New Yorkers' health, according to Farley. Read the full article.


Study Links Low Incomes to Poor Eating Habits

A University of Minnesota study found a link between low-income households and poor eating habits. Researchers found teenagers living in homes that struggle to afford food were more likely to be overweight or obese than other teenagers. Click here for the full article.

Senators Want to Expel Junk Food from U.S. Schools

U.S. schools with vending machines that sell candy and soda to students could soon find the government requiring healthier options to combat childhood obesity under a bill introduced by two senators. Read the full article.

Diet, Not Lack of Exercise, to Blame for Obesity

Overeating, rather than sedentary lifestyles, plays a central role in the rise of obesity in the developed world, according to new research. A study by the World Health Organization suggests that there has not been any significant reduction in levels of exercise in the past thirty years. Click here for the full article.

‘Default Food’ Contributes to Obesity

The obesity epidemic in the U.S. has many causes. One contributor is “default food,” which is readily and easily available where and when people need to eat. For the full article, click here.


Researchers Urge Crackdown on Junk Food TV Ads

Junk food ads make up two-thirds of televised food advertisements that are broadcast when children are likely to be watching TV, according to researchers at the Cancer Council NSW in Australia. From the eleven countries studied, Germany and the United States led the way at 90 percent, with Britain and Australia the lowest at about 50 percent, the researchers said. The researchers urged governments to limit such marketing in order to combat obesity. For the full article, click here.

Senator Introduces Obesity Bill

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., has reintroduced legislation aimed at fighting obesity, particularly among children and adolescents. The bill would develop a national strategy to organize the country's effort to combat childhood and adult obesity by encouraging federal agencies, private entities, and communities to work together. For the full article, click here.

New York Governor Proposes Wide-Reaching Menu Labeling Bill

New York Gov. David Paterson has proposed legislation to help fight obesity by requiring calorie posting in restaurants, supermarkets, and convenience stores that belong to large chains. This initiative is part of the state's war on obesity and is intended to help consumers make informed choices when purchasing food prepared away from home. Read the full article.

Soda Tax Weighed to Pay for Health Care

Senate leaders are considering new federal taxes on soda and other sugary drinks to help pay for an overhaul of the nation's health care system. The taxes would pay for only a fraction of the cost to expand health insurance coverage to all Americans and would face strong opposition from the beverage industry. Click here for the full article.

Policymakers Introduce Federal Restaurant Menu Labeling Initiative

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-I.A., and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-C.T., have introduced legislation requiring that nutritional information be displayed on chain restaurant menus and vending machines. Click here for the full article.