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

February 2010

Hear the Latest on Soft Drink Taxes from the Rudd Center

We invite you to join Rudd Center Director, Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, and Roberta R. Friedman, ScM, Director of Public Policy and Government Initiatives, for a discussion on soft drink taxes and how they can address obesity. A webinar will be held on Tuesday, March 9, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EST.

In addition to updates on the latest developments in state and local policies since our July 2009 webinar, we will offer an overview of the rationale, relevant science, and economic and policy considerations of soft drink taxes.

The webinar will be listen-only, but participants will have the opportunity to type questions in real time.

There are two listen-in options: using voiceover IP (VoIP) through your computer (which incurs no additional cost and requires speakers or headphones on your computer — a microphone is not needed) or using your phone to dial into the webinar according to the confirmation E-mail instructions (which will incur a cost to you based on your regular long distance rate).

Registration is now available. After registering you will receive a confirmation E-mail containing information about joining the webinar.

Michelle Obama Joins the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity has found a new opponent in Michelle Obama. The first lady announced the Let’s Move campaign to change the food and physical activity behaviors of children that play a hand in obesity. Mrs. Obama spent a year consulting with experts in medicine, science, government, education, and the food industry to plan the initiative. With the goal of reversing the epidemic within one generation, the campaign has four areas of focus: helping parents make healthy family choices, serving healthier foods in schools, accessing healthy and affordable food, and increasing physical activity.

“This is absolutely historic,” said Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, who attended the campaign’s launch. “It is the first time an administration has taken this level of action, it appears that government agencies will be working in coordinated ways, and the First Lady was emphatic in stating how important it is for the nation to mobilize.”  

American Beverage Association Announces Labeling Changes

The beverage industry has partnered with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to provide consumers with improved nutrition information on its products. By 2012 consumers will see calorie counts on the front of labels, vending machines, and fountain machines. The industry also pledges to reduce beverage calories, market low-calorie products, and investigate additional front-of-package labels.

“I salute the industry for making this change,” said Rudd Center Director, Kelly D. Brownell, PhD. “Only with time will we know the impact this will have on consumers but providing more information in prominent locations is a positive move.”

New York City Launches Campaign to Reduce Salt

Salt_ReductionNew York City health officials aim to decrease salt in restaurant and packaged foods. The “National Salt Reduction Initiative” recommends that manufacturers voluntarily reduce salt per serving by 25% within the next five years. The timeline should allow consumers to adjust gradually to the change and companies to reformulate products without compromising taste.

The initiative is Mayor Bloomberg’s latest effort to improve the health of New Yorkers. His administration also has banned trans fats, instituted menu labeling, and advised consumers about the drawbacks of soda consumption. The salt initiative could lead to modifications nationally because it would be difficult to reformulate products only supplied to New York City.

Salt is a major player in the morbidity and mortality of U.S. adults. If daily salt consumption was reduced by half a teaspoon per person, the number of heart attacks and deaths would significantly decline, according to a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Once again New York City has taken the lead in an important health arena and has shown how constructive a role governments can play,” said Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

February 24
12:30 pm
James E. Tierney, JD
Director, National State Attorneys General Program, Columbia Law School; Former Attorney General of Maine
Health Advocacy by State Attorneys General

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center, located at 309 Edwards Street in New Haven, Connecticut, 06511. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download as a PDF document.

You may sign up to receive weekly E-mail updates from the Rudd Center detailing upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Responding to public outcry over objectionable marketing and nutrition practices, the food industry has pledged in recent years to voluntarily adopt self-regulatory practices to avoid government intervention. This course of action is being called into question by public health experts including Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, in a paper published in the American Journal of Public Health. In “The Food Industry and Self-Regulation: Standards to Promote Success and to Avoid Public Health Failures,” the authors call on the food industry to raise the bar on self-regulatory efforts by implementing new standards to earn public trust and achieve a positive public health impact, if such practices are to be considered viable alternatives to government involvement. Co-authors include Lisa L. Sharma, MBA, MPH, and Stephen P. Teret, JD, MPH.

U.S. Obesity Rates May Have Plateaued

An examination of obesity trends from 1999 to 2008 has revealed that rates among U.S. adults may have hit a plateau. In 2007-2008, the prevalence was 33.8% overall, 32.2% among men, and 35.5% among women, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The survey is a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. The previous increases in the prevalence of obesity in the United States between 1976 and 2000 do not appear to have continued during the past ten years.

The authors noted that, although these data are encouraging, the rates remain high and “prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity on a populationwide basis are challenging.” The authors recommend environmental interventions, such as improving access to healthy food in underserved areas, to achieve improved health and lead to “future decreases in the prevalence of obesity.”

Rudd Center Spotlight: James E. Tierney, JD

TierneyJames E. Tierney is Director of the National State Attorneys General Program and Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School. Tierney is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law and served as the Attorney General of Maine from 1980 to 1990.

Mr. Tierney was a Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School and has guest lectured at many law schools about the office of state attorney general. He has served on the Boards of the American Judicature Society and Commentators of the Courtroom Television Network, where he regularly appeared as a guest. In 2006, Tierney was selected as the Public Interest Professor of the Year at Columbia Law School.

Mr. Tierney’s distinguished career is marked by many significant accomplishments, including his role in the “Tobacco Wars.” As a private lawyer and business consultant, Mr. Tierney was a key strategist for the attorneys general in a series of lawsuits against Big Tobacco that aimed to recoup the costs of treating smoking-related diseases through Medicaid. He is passionate about the application of law to public health, and through the Health Law Initiative — part of the National States Attorneys General Program — he provides resources for attorneys general, academics, and students as they consider the role of attorneys general in health advocacy.

The Rudd Center will host James E. Tierney on February 24 at 12:30 pm, where he will present Health Advocacy by State Attorneys General as part of the Spring 2010 Seminar Series.

Federal Panel Recommends Screening for Obesity in Children

Screening for obesity in children and adolescents should be standard practice, according to new recommendations issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. The report, published in the February issue of Pediatrics, advises doctors to screen children six and older for obesity and provide referrals for intensive weight-management programs.

According to the federal panel, an intensive weight-management program involves more than 25 hours of contact with the child during the first six months of treatment and includes dietary, physical activity, and behavioral counseling components.

This recommendation replaces the U.S. task force’s 2005 position that insufficient evidence was available on effective weight-management interventions for children. New data allowed the panel to determine that these programs were indeed successful in helping children achieve a healthy weight. In a Pediatrics editorial, “Evidence for Effective Obesity Treatment: Pediatricians on the Right Track!,” Dr. Sandra G. Hassink, an American Academy of Pediatrics Board of Directors member, discussed the importance of the new recommendations. “Obesity treatment can be effective and extend beyond the immediate intervention,” she said, “…comprehensive treatment works.”

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Steven N. Blair, PED
Professor, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina

Lisa M. Powell, PhD
Senior Research Scientist, Institute for Health Research and Policy; Research Professor, Department of Economics; University of Illinois at Chicago

Rudolph L. Leibel, MD
Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research; Co-Director, Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center; Head, Division of Molecular Genetics; Columbia University

Our collection of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine — Nutrition & Obesity section, or you 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

Calorie Listings Not Always Accurate


A new study that examined restaurant foods and frozen packaged foods found that calorie listings are often not accurate. Some advocates point to this as a reason for more government regulation to require the accuracy of the information provided. Read more.

The Surprising Reason Being Overweight Isn't Healthy

Recent studies have found that if you are an overweight woman you are at higher risk of receiving inadequate medical care and may have a harder time getting health insurance or have to pay higher premiums. Read more.

Chain Restaurants Find that Calories Count

Restaurant chains across the country are reformulating fat- and calorie-laden items and introducing lighter, more healthful options in anticipation of potential federal menu-labeling requirements. Read more.

Pact to Limit Sugary Cereals to Children Not Worth Its Salt

The Chicago Tribune reported on a recent Rudd Center report revealing that the least nutritious cereals are still the ones most aggressively marketed to children despite pledges made by food companies to advertise healthier food to youngsters. Cereal companies do sell healthy options, but the ones advertised to children have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber, and 60 percent more sodium than those aimed at adults. Read more.

CDC Reports Nation Is Not Meeting Health Goals

Americans are failing to meet the goals set by the "Healthy People Program,” according to the CDC. The initiative, created in the 1970s by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sets a number of health goals for each decade. Read more.

Childhood Metabolic Measurements May Predict Diabetes Development

A child's blood pressure, body mass index, blood glucose level, and other health indicators may predict the risk of developing type 2 diabetes up to 26 years later, according to a report in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Read more.

N.J. Chain Restaurants Are Required to Add Calorie Counts to Menus

Calorie counts for every menu item will start appearing in 2011 at popular fast-food and other chain restaurants in New Jersey. Franchises with more than 20 locations nationally will calculate the number of calories by item and post the information on all drive-through and indoor menu boards. Read more.

Battle Brews over Chocolate Milk

Encouraging students to regularly consume chocolate milk is contributing to the childhood obesity crisis, according to some experts. One eight-ounce serving of reduced-fat chocolate milk has nearly as many calories and sugar as a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola. Read more.

High Cholesterol Found in One-Fifth of U.S. Teens

At least one out of every five U.S. teenagers has abnormal cholesterol levels, boosting the risk of heart disease, the CDC reported. The rate jumped to 43% among those who are obese. Read more.


South Korean Government Bans Prime Time Junk Food Ads

In an attempt to cut childhood obesity and promote healthy eating, the South Korean government has banned the advertising of foods high in fat, sugar, and salt on television between 5:00 and 7:00 pm and during all children’s programming. Read more.

More Chains Advertise with Mobile Apps

Mobil applications have greatly risen in popularity, including applications from chain restaurants such as Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, LongHorn, Chipotle, Hardee’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell. Read more.

Cash-Strapped Governments Sell Ad Space

KFC has paid $7,500 to two Indiana cities to emblazon Coronel Sanders’ face on their fire hydrants and extinguishers. The campaign will promote the chain’s new fiery chicken wings. Experts say to expect more ads like this on public property as marketers try to find new ad space and governments try to find more money. Read more.

Children Spend Most of Waking Hours in Front of the Screen


A new Kaiser Family Foundation study found that children age eight to 18 spend over seven-and-a-half hours per day using a smart phone, computer, television, or other electronic device. This is an hour more than they spent just five years ago. Read more.