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

April 2010

Webinar on Soft Drink Taxes


The Rudd Center addressed the impact of soft drink taxes on obesity during a recent webinar. Speakers included Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, and Roberta R. Friedman, ScM, Director of Public Policy and Government Initiatives. In addition to updates on the latest developments about state and local policies, the Rudd Center offered an overview of the rationale, relevant science, and economic and policy considerations of soft drink taxes. The webinar recording, PowerPoint presentation, and Questions and Answers are available.

New Media Guidelines, Free Image Gallery Support Fair, Unbiased Coverage of Obesity-Related Topics

The Rudd Center, together with The Obesity Society, has created the first-ever comprehensive guidelines for the portrayal of overweight and obese persons in the media. Designed to assist journalists in their coverage of obesity-related topics, the guidelines help ensure that stigmatizing and pejorative portrayals of overweight and obese persons in the media are avoided.

Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives at the Rudd Center, spearheaded the development of the guidelines. “The media is an important and influential source of information about obesity, and shapes the public’s attitudes about these issues,” she said. “The time has come for reporters, editors, bloggers, and other influencers to have a clear, credible resource to aid them in their delivery of obesity and weight loss news and information.”

The Rudd Center is also pleased to announce the launch of a free Image Gallery. The Image Gallery provides a collection of more than 150 photographs that portray obese individuals in ways that are positive and non-stereotypical. The Image Gallery is available to anyone with a need for online or print-quality graphics.

President Obama Signs Health Care Bill: Menu Labeling Federal Law

The new health care reform legislation ushered in a new national menu labeling requirement. Section 4205 of the bill, Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants, calls for calories to be listed on chain restaurant menus, menu boards, and drive-through displays. The law also applies to vending machines. Rosa DeLauro, Member of the House of Representatives from Connecticut, and Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa were the key legislators responsible for menu labeling requirements.

The Rudd Center is an active supporter of menu labeling legislation and has written widely on the topic. Most recently, Christina Roberto's research on the impact of menu labeling on food choices was published in the American Journal of Public Health

Restaurant Ads on TV Up Significantly for Children and Teens, Exposure to Some Unhealthy Food and Beverage Ads Declining

A newly released Rudd Report used data licensed from the Nielsen Company to assess trends in television food advertising seen by children, adolescents, and African American youth from 2002 to 2008.

Findings show that in 2008 children (ages 2-11) viewed 4% fewer food ads compared to 2002 and 12% fewer compared to 2004, the year with the highest volume of food advertising in this study. Unfortunately, adolescent exposure (ages 12-17) to all food advertising increased by 9% from 2002 to 2008, and the majority of this increase occurred from 2007 to 2008.

Substantial improvements occurred in both child and adolescent exposure to advertising for some food and beverage categories, including carbonated and other sweetened beverages, candy, and sweet snacks. Advertising also increased for some healthy categories.

The restaurant category, including both fast food and other restaurants, remains a significant cause for concern. Restaurant advertising to both children and adolescents increased from 2002 through 2008 (by 28% and 40%, respectively) to offset any positive changes in food and beverage product advertising. African American youth also experienced a 9% increase in total food advertising exposure during the same period, and African Americans viewed 37% more food advertisements in 2008 as compared to all youth.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

April 14, 12:30 pm
S. Bryn Austin, ScD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital Boston; Harvard Medical School; Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health
Missing the Blind Spot in the Drive for Childhood Obesity Prevention? Bringing Eating Disorders Prevention into Focus as a Public Health Priority

April 21, 12:30 pm
Thomas A. Wadden, PhD
Professor of Psychology, School of Medicine; Director, Center for Weight and Eating Disorders; University of Pennsylvania
New Life in Lifestyle Modification for Obesity

April 28, 12:30 pm
Patricia Crawford, DrPH, PhD
Director, Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health; Adjunct Professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology, School of Public Health; University of California, Berkeley
The California Experience with Changing the Food Environment: From Research to State Policy

May 5, 12:30 pm
Geraldine Henchy, MPH, RD
Director of Nutrition Policy, Food Research and Action Center
Hunger and Obesity Paradox: Advocacy Issues

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.

Progressive Policy Changes on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages at School

Removing sugar-sweetened beverages from schools is considered an integral component of childhood obesity prevention efforts, and has been underway for some time in the United States. It is equally important, however, to echo the same commitment to removing junk foods and sugared beverages from schools around the world, particularly in developing countries.

Recently, PepsiCo announced the introduction of a voluntary policy to stop selling full-sugared soft drinks to primary and secondary schools around the world by 2012. This shift mirrors recommendations for soft drink companies to take stricter approaches to beverages in schools that were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

"It is very important that pledges by the industry have real meaning, that they result in reduced intake, and that the protection of children globally is a priority. I hope other companies make global commitments as well,” said Kelly D. Brownell, Rudd Center Director.

Noting much more work ahead, Brownell added, “It is essential to keep an eye on the final goal — less sugared beverage intake in children overall, not just in schools.”

PepsiCo’s announcement coincided with the release of the Alliance School Beverage Guidelines Final Progress Report, an initiative spearheaded by the American Beverage Association and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. This industry-funded report highlighted changes in the school beverage landscape since 2004, including an 88% reduction in calories from beverages shipped to schools and an increase of low-calorie, nutritious, and portion-controlled beverages.


Of Biblical Proportions

An analysis of 52 paintings depicting the Last Supper, Jesus Christ’s last meal with his disciples, has revealed that its representation of food portions has increased exponentially in the past millennium. Cornell University’s Brian Wansink, PhD, found that between the years 1000 and 2000, the main dish grew in size by 69%, the plate by 66%, and the bread portion by 23%.

Continuing Education Course on Obesity

The Yale School of Medicine Departments of Surgery and Internal Medicine will present the “Medical and Surgical Management of Obesity” symposium on April 10 at the Anlyan Center for Medical Research and Education in New Haven. The keynote speaker is Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director.

Obesity remains an intractable medical and public health problem. The symposium will provide physician education about the state-of-the-art medical and surgical approaches to diagnosing and treating obesity. It also will include the discussion of co-morbid conditions commonly encountered in obese people, including cardiometabolic syndrome,.

This educational activity is designated for a maximum of 8 American Medical Association Physician’s Recognition Award Category 1 Credits™. 

Just Published by the Rudd Center

More overweight and obese individuals are attempting weight loss, and calorie restriction has superseded low-fat plans as the preferred diet approach, according to a new study from the Rudd Center published in April’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association, “Trying to Lose Weight: Diet Strategies among Americans with Overweight or Obesity in 1996 and 2003.”

The study, which compared data from the earliest and most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems (BRFSS) found a substantial change in reported diet approaches among adults. Rates of individuals using calorie restriction to lose weight doubled between 1996 and 2003, while low-fat dieting decreased by a third. Hispanic and less-educated adults, however, did not show a decrease in low-fat dieting. The study also found that attempted weight loss was often associated with higher fruit and vegetable consumption.

“Reducing caloric intake while maintaining a healthy diet is widely recommended for individuals trying to lose weight, and is increasing among a large part of the population,” said Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD, Director of Economic Initiatives at the Rudd Center and an author of the study. “The public health opportunity lies in helping educate at-risk populations on the benefits of calorie restriction over low-fat diets, the latter of which have not been proven effective for weight loss on their own.”

Co-authors include Michael W. Long, MPH, doctoral student at the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Rudd Center’s Kathryn E. Henderson, PhD, Director of School and Community Initiatives, and Gabrielle M. Grode, MPH, Research Associate.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Patricia Crawford, DrPH, RD

CrawfordPatricia Crawford, DrPH, RD, a prominent childhood obesity researcher for more than 20 years, will discuss changes in the California food environment at a Rudd Center seminar in late April. Her work examines the environmental, family, clinical, and policy approaches that can address the childhood obesity epidemic. She is Director of the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Crawford earned her BS at the University of Washington and her MPH and DrPH at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a registered dietitian. Dr. Crawford is widely published in academic journals, co-authored the textbook, Obesity: Dietary & Developmental Influences, and sits on several advisory boards, including the California Legislative Task Force on Diabetes & Obesity and the Institute of Medicine’s Standing Committee on Childhood Obesity Prevention.

Dr. Crawford is involved in several current research projects, including Healthy Eating and Active Communities Quantitative Evaluation (Kaiser Permanente) and National Healthy Eating Active Living (Kaiser Permanente/Group Health). She has previously served as the principal investigator of the longitudinal National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s Growth and Health Study and the five-state Fit WIC Child Obesity Intervention Study.
The Rudd Center looks forward to Dr. Crawford’s Spring Seminar Series presentation on April 28 — The California Experience with Changing the Food Environment: From Research to State Policy. The seminar will be held at the Rudd Center, 309 Edwards Street, at 12:30 pm. Seating is limited.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Jerome D. Williams, PhD
F. J. Heyne Centennial Professor, Department of Advertising/Center for African and African American Studies, University of Texas at Austin

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

Sweeping School Lunch Bill Clears Senate Panel

Senators cleared the path for a final vote on legislation to bolster the safety and nutritional value of school lunches, including provisions to improve training for cafeteria workers and to alert schools more quickly about recalls of contaminated food. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 would commit an additional $4.5 billion to child nutrition programs over the next 10 years and implement the most sweeping changes to those programs in decades. Read more.

New York Mayor Presses for Tax on Soda

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged state legislators to levy a tax on soda, saying the money raised would help plug the state's shortfalls in health care and education funding. Read more.

Cutting Salt Could Prevent Almost 500,000 Heart Attacks

A combined government-industry initiative to reduce U.S. sodium consumption by 10% would save hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, according to an article in Annals of Internal Medicine. Read more.

New Trend Shows Kids Snacking Every Few Hours

Gone are the days when parents forbade their children to snack between meals. The trend these days seems to be toward continuous eating. Read more.

Massachusetts Senate Approves School Nutrition Bill


The Massachusetts Senate has approved a bill designed to ban the sale of high-calorie sodas and salty and sugary snacks in elementary and high schools. Read more.

First Lady Talks Obesity with School Nutritionists

First Lady Michelle Obama says the people who prepare meals for schools have more influence over what children eat than their parents do. Children who participate in school meal programs eat about half their daily calories at school. Read more.

Culture of Corpulence

American innovations in food, transportation, and technology are threatening to supersize us all. Read more.

Kids Who Buy School Lunch Less Healthy

Kids who eat school lunches have higher bad cholesterol and consume twice as many fatty meats and sugary drinks as those who pack their lunch from home, according to a University of Michigan study. Read more.

Local Push to Tax Soda Adds Fizz to U.S. Debate

A campaign by state and local lawmakers to tax sugary beverages to cover obesity-related health costs could revive a national debate successfully snuffed last year by the $110 billion soft drink industry. Read more.

More Kids Now Extremely Obese

The obesity epidemic is hitting children harder than ever, with 7.3% of boys and 5.5% of girls classified as extremely obese, according to Kaiser Permanente researchers. Read more.

PepsiCo to Cut Sodium, Sugar, Fat in Products


PepsiCo plans within five years to cut the sodium in each serving of its key brands by one-fourth, in addition to sugar and fat. The industry has been dealing with pressure from the government and health-conscious shoppers who want more options. Read more.

Women Should Exercise an Hour a Day

The 60-minute-a-day recommendation is aimed at women of normal weight who want to avoid gaining weight over time without dieting. Most Americans gain about one-and-a-half pounds a year between age 25 and 55, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Read more.

Compulsive Eating May Be Addictive

The same molecular mechanisms that drive people into drug addiction are behind the compulsion to overeat, according to research by the Scripps Research Institute. Read more.


For Obese People, Prejudice in Plain Sight

No federal legislation protects the civil rights of overweight workers, and only one state – Michigan – bans discrimination on the basis of weight. Read more.

A Day of Judgment for Big Soda

Is it good science to blame soda for the soaring rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children and adults? If so, do we levy a charge – daresay a "tax" – to discourage soda use and fund programs that promote better health? Read more.

Families Should Work Together to Fight Junk Food, Empty Calories


As a psychologist who treats eating disorders and obesity, the Rudd Center’s Marlene Schwartz always has been mindful of her children's eating habits. When her children were younger, people thought she was a bit radical in her thinking. Read more.


Food Companies Increasingly Engaging in Cause Marketing

Brands such as Pepsi, Quaker, and Bisquick are increasingly engaging in "micro-sponsorships," giving a few thousand dollars to consumers to fund projects that market their products. Read more.

Athletes Advertise Fast Food

The Vancouver Winter Olympics will long be remembered for inspiring athletic achievements. Health experts also worry people will remember some of the elite athletes with burgers, fries, and Egg McMuffins in their hands. Read more.

FDA Cracks Down on Misleading Health Claims on Food Packages

The FDA sent 17 warning letters to food manufacturers who are putting misleading labels on food packages. Among the products with such labels are Gerber baby food, Juicy Juice, Dreyer’s ice cream, POM pomegranate juice, and Gorton’s fish fillets. Read more.

Food Companies Ranked on Policies on Marketing to Children

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has issued report cards for 128 food companies based on their policies for marketing to children. Three-quarters of the companies received Fs for having weak or no policies. Read more.