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

October 2010

Breaking News! New York City Asks to Remove Sweetened Drinks from Food Stamps

New York City and State announced their request to the USDA to prohibit NYC SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) dollars from being used to purchase soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages. The two-year project is expected to decrease consumption by up to 9%. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest single contributor to the obesity epidemic, which disproportionately affects low-income New Yorkers.

Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, supports the project. “This is a controversial but courageous move by public health leaders in New York State and New York City. Restricting use of SNAP benefits (food stamps) to some foods and not others might be opposed by hunger advocacy groups because it could be seen as a way of unfairly targeting the poor, and I can understand this concern. But there are also strong arguments in favor of such a move. By definition SNAP is designed to provide supplemental nutrition. Few nutrition experts would list sugar-sweetened beverages as supplementing good nutrition as they contain only calories and no nutrition at a time when obesity is a major national concern. These beverages are the single greatest source of added sugar in the American diet so it is not surprising that there is a long list of organizations that have called for reductions in sugar-sweetened beverage intake, including the Centers for Disease Control. The USDA, the government department that administers SNAP, says on its Web site that 'We help put healthy food on the table for over 40 million people each month.'

"SNAP is a valuable program that helps millions of people get the food and nutrition they need, and it should be supported in every way possible. But using government funds to pay for things that so clearly contribute to ill health does not make sense, particularly when government agencies, including the USDA, are struggling to address the nation’s obesity problem. A good argument can also be made for consistency across government programs; sugar-sweetened beverages are not included in the Women, Infants, and Children program.

"This move in New York, supported by Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Paterson, would not reduce benefits and if it leads to less consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and greater consumption of healthier foods, every citizen could benefit because of lower health care costs that we all pay for.”

Sugared Drink Ban Proposed in Boston’s City Buildings


Boston may be the next city to prohibit the sale of sweetened drinks in its government facilities, following San Francisco, San Antonio, and New York City's lead on regulating the accessibility of beverages in its city-owned buildings.

City officials are discussing the ban as a strategy to fight high obesity rates. Americans’ consumption of calories from sugar-sweetened beverages, part of an individual’s daily discretionary calorie allowance, almost tripled between the mid-1970s and 2000.

Proponents see the potential of the regulation through the success of bans on smoking. “It would be considered bizarre to see someone smoking in a health care institution today,’’ said Bill Walczak, Boston city panel member and head of a community health center. “We see this as the beginning of the food revolution.’’

Child Nutrition Bill Progress Comes to a Halt

School food advocates are disappointed over the failure to pass the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, after a one-year extension by Congress in 2009. The House of Representatives did not vote on the bill by the September 30 deadline amid controversy over the proposed funding increases from a reduction in the federal food stamp program.

The bill would make the following improvements by increasing the rate for reimbursable meals by six cents:

  • Boost the number of low-income children who qualify for reduced-price or free school meals
  • Set higher nutritional standards for items sold in the lunch line and vending machines by incorporating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and reducing fat and salt
  • Remove a la carte and vending machine junk food

A stop-gap bill, passed by Congress before adjourning, will temporarily extend child nutrition programs. Advocates will encourage legislators to pass the child nutrition bill during the lame-duck session, the period of time between November’s elections and January’s swearing in of newly elected officials.

Rudd Center Awarded Grant to Study WIC

As part of an initiative to improve the USDA's food and nutrition assistance programs, the Rudd Center received a grant for $265,000 to conduct research on the effects of the revised WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food package guidelines on participants' purchases of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lower-fat milk.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

October 13, 12:30 pm
Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD
Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health; Adjunct Professor, Department of Pediatrics; University of Minnesota
An Integrated Approach to Preventing Obesity and Eating Disorders in Youth: Why and How?

November 10, 12:30 pm
Terry O’Toole, PhD, FASHA
Health Scientist
Your Money or Your Health: Selling Junk Food in America’s Schools

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Fall Seminar Series is available online and for download.

Subscribe to our mailing list to receive reminders of upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

Adolescents Needed for Rudd Center Project

The Rudd Center is looking for overweight males and females ages 10-13 years to participate in an upcoming photo shoot. Photos will be used for research and multimedia purposes, to help reduce weight bias and promote positive portrayals of overweight youth. Models should be available for 5-7 hours on Tuesday, November 2. Photographs will be taken on the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut in activities such as playing on a school playground, eating a healthy snack, sitting in a classroom, and walking outside. Models will be paid $60/hour and lunch will be provided. For more information, e-mail Jamie Lee Peterson or call her at (203) 432-5529.

Teens View Sports Drinks as Healthy Alternative to Soda

Physically active teens are more likely to quench their thirst with sports drinks than their sedentary peers who tend to drink more soda, according to a recent study in Pediatrics. The study also found that teens who consume sports drinks also consume more fruits and vegetables, especially girls. By contrast, fruit and vegetable consumption decreased as soda consumption increased.

Sports drinks are heavily marketed, feature popular world-class athletes, and have garnered the reputation among teens as a healthy alternative to soda. While sports drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that aid in hydration, they also pack excessive amounts of sugar; a 20-ounce bottle of Gatorade contains 125 calories and 35 grams of sugar.

Guidelines from the American Heart Association state that children should limit their intake to 12 grams of added sugar per day.

According to Rudd Center Director, Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, “Sports drinks don't have as much sugar as soda, so they're not as bad, but the last thing American children need is more sugar."

The majority of teens consuming sports drinks are not physically active enough to need them but have been led to believe they are needed for hydration and performance.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD

Neumark-Sztainer Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, PhD, Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, will discuss an integrated approach to preventing obesity and eating disorders in youth on October 13 during the Rudd Center’s Fall Seminar Series.

Dr. Neumark-Sztainer’s research focuses on nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of weight-related problems, including eating disorders, unhealthy weight control behaviors, body dissatisfaction, and obesity among adolescents.

Her work has been published in more than 250 peer-reviewed scientific journals. She also has written a book designed to help parents of adolescents called, “’I’m, Like, SO, Fat!’ Helping Your Teen Make Healthy Choices about Eating and Exercise in a Weight-Obsessed World.”

She has received several awards, including from the National Eating Disorders Association, the International Academy of Eating Disorders, and the Eating Disorders Coalition.


Sugar Shift

Will a sweetener by another name still taste as sweet? The makers of high-fructose corn syrup hope so. The Corn Refiners Association, a trade group, is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to allow it to replace the term with “corn sugar” on packages. Its image has been tarnished and sales have fallen because a growing number of consumers perceive that it’s more harmful than table sugar. While high-fructose corn syrup is cheaper to produce than sugar and is used in many sugar-sweetened drinks, increased consumption of all sweetened beverages has contributed to high obesity rates.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Connecticut Schools’ Food Landscape Healthier

Students and teachers in Connecticut’s public schools have fewer unhealthy snack food options in their cafeterias, according to a new study from the Rudd Center recently published in the Journal of School Health.

On average, Connecticut school districts participating in the National School Lunch Program reduced the availability of unhealthy snack foods during the 2006-2007 school year, when the study was conducted. Districts participating in Connecticut’s Healthy Food Certification, which was first implemented that year, showed greater reduction of unhealthy competitive foods than districts that did not participate. Currently, almost 68% of Connecticut’s eligible schools participate in Healthy Food Certification and participation has increased by almost 34% since the 2006 implementation.

Co-authors of the study included Michael W. Long, MPH, doctoral student at the Harvard School of Public Health, Kathryn E. Henderson, PhD, Rudd Center Director of School and Community Initiatives, and Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Deputy Director.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Peter Kaminsky
Author, Journalist

Richard F. Daines, MD, FACP
Commissioner of Health, New York State Department of Health
Taxing Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

The Rudd Center’s extensive library 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 automatically updates when new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

Ban Proposed on Fast-Food Toys in San Francisco


San Francisco Supervisor, Eric Mar, recently proposed a ban on toy giveaways in fast-food children’s meals. The proposal is modeled after a similar law established in Santa Clara County, California, that limits sugar, sodium, and fat content and requires inclusion of fruits and vegetables in fast-food toy giveaways. Read more.

Farmers’ Markets Draw Few Low-Income Shoppers

About one-fourth of the nation's farmers' markets accept food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. However, farmers’ markets still draw few low-income shoppers due to distance and other cost challenges. Read more.

Three-Quarters of Americans Overweight by 2020

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicts that three out of four Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020, resulting in ballooning health care costs, lives cut short, and wasted resources. Read more.

Civil Rights Organizations Join Forces in Childhood Obesity Fight

Thanks to a $2 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, five prominent and powerful civil rights organizations are working together to help reverse childhood obesity. They seek to advance the public advocacy and policy changes critical to creating healthier African American and Latino communities. Read more.

Making Public Places Safer to Reduce Obesity

High rates of childhood obesity are often found in communities with high rates of violence. Several cities have been chosen to be part of a small pilot project, coordinated by the Prevention Institute and sponsored by the Convergence Partnership, to address obesity by creating safer parks and public spaces. Read more.

American Children Filling Up on Empty Calories

Almost 40% of calories consumed by American children come from fat and added sugars, found a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The top sources of energy for children ages two to eighteen were grain desserts, pizza, and soda. Read more.

Nestlé Invests in Healthy Food Products

Nestlé Invests in Healthy Food Products
Nestlé recently announced that it will invest $500 million over the next decade to develop and implement health and wellness products to help prevent and treat major health problems like diabetes and obesity. Read more.


Lawsuit over Vitaminwater’s Misleading Marketing Moves Forward

Last year, the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola’s ambiguous advertising of Vitaminwater. A federal judge recently ruled that the case has enough merit to move forward – an opportunity to explore the role that the marketing of sugar-sweetened beverages plays in the obesity epidemic. Read more.

Menu Labeling Creates Healthier Choices

One-third of calories consumed by American families today, and almost half of total food dollars spent, are at restaurants. Menu labeling can improve the environment in which Americans make eating choices. Read more.

Childhood Obesity May Be Underrepresented

Childhood obesity may be even more widespread than previously thought because many parents report their child’s weight incorrectly, according to research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting. Almost half of parents surveyed underestimated their child’s weight while overestimating boys’ height and underestimating girls’ height. Read more.

Selling Junk Food in School Vending Machines

A recent study published in the Journal of School Health showed that students who purchased items from school vending machines consumed more sugar and empty calories, and less fiber, iron, and other vitamins and minerals. Read more.


Industry-Self Regulation Is Still not Enough

According to a study published in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity, children are still seeing the same amount of unhealthy food advertisements on television as they did a year ago, when industry self-regulation was first introduced. Read more.

On the Web, Children Face Intensive Tracking

Popular children’s Web sites use tracking technologies to collect visitor information more often that adult Web sites, according to a study by The Wall Street Journal. Read more.

FTC Subpoenas Food Companies on Marketing to Children

The FTC has issued subpoenas to 48 food manufacturers to follow up on industry self-regulation efforts. Twelve companies that did not receive subpoenas in 2007, including Yum Brands and Hostess, received summons this year. Read more.

Baby Carrots Marketed as Junk Food


Bolthouse Farms and nearly 50 other carrot growers launched a marketing campaign that promotes carrots to children as junk food, with new packing, TV advertisements, and phone apps. Read more.