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

April 2011

One-Fifth of Weight Gain from Sugar-Sweetened Beverages


Sugar-sweetened beverages account for at least 20% of the weight gained between 1977 and 2007 in the United States, according to a systematic literature review by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Obesity rates and sugar-sweetened beverage intake have increased in tandem in the United States, according to the researchers.

The researchers noted that efforts to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption are likely to have a measurable impact on obesity. Strategies to reduce consumption include higher prices, decreased availability, and marketing regulations. The paper was published in Public Health Nutrition.

Federal Menu Labeling Regulations Released

The FDA recently released the proposed federal menu labeling regulations, as mandated by last year’s health care reform law. The regulations require chain restaurants, retail food establishments, and vending machines with at least 20 locations nationwide to disclose calorie information to consumers.

Proposal highlights:

  • Non-“identical” state and local menu labeling laws will be preempted.
  • Covered establishments include fast food restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and grocery and convenience stores that sell restaurant-type food.
  • Drive-throughs and self-service food displays are included.
  • Alcohol, movie theaters, airplanes, and bowling alleys are excluded.
  • Vending machines must display calorie information if the Nutrition Facts Panel is not visible.
  • Menus and menu boards must state that additional nutrition information is available on request.
  • Menus and menu boards must include a statement on daily caloric intake. The FDA seeks comments on several renditions of this statement.

Research shows that menu labeling has the potential to make a positive public health impact and that calorie labels with a daily recommendation influences food choices and intake.

The FDA has invited the public to submit comments on chain restaurants and retail food establishments through June 6, and on vending machines through July 5. The proposal is expected to go into effect in 2012.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Addictive-Like Eating Behavior and Substance Dependence Share Similar Brain Activity Patterns

People who exhibit addictive-like eating behavior show similar activity in the same brain regions as people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, including elevated activation in reward circuitry in response to food cues, according to research just published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. This study is the first to link symptoms of addictive eating behavior with specific patterns of brain activity in both obese and lean individuals.

According to the Rudd Center’s Ashley N. Gearhardt, MS, MPhil, lead researcher, "The findings support the theory that compulsive food consumption may be driven in part by an enhanced anticipation of the rewarding properties of food. Similarly, addicted individuals are more likely to be physiologically, psychologically, and behaviorally reactive to substance-related cues."

Results demonstrate that efforts to change the current food environment may be essential to successful weight loss and prevention efforts since food cues may take on motivational properties similar to drug cues.   

Co-authors include Rudd Center Director Kelly D. Brownell, PhD; Sonja Yokum, PhD; Patrick T. Orr, MS, MPhil; Eric Stice, PhD; and William R. Corbin, PhD.

“Fat Fee” Proposed in Arizona: Rewarding Healthy Behavior or Raising Weight Stigma?

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently announced a proposal to levy a $50 fee on obese participants of Arizona’s Medicaid program. Obese persons would be required to develop a doctor-supervised weight-loss plan to lose weight and improve their health and must pay the fee if they are unable to meet the specified goals.

The proposal rewards healthy behavior and raises awareness that certain conditions, including obesity, increase costs throughout the system, according to Brewer.

While it is imperative to improve the nation’s health and reduce obesity, the proposal raises a serious alarm of weight discrimination. “Individuals with obesity already face numerous health consequences and inequities as a result of stigmatization and prejudice,” said Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center’s Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. “Instead of imposing penalties, there are many alternative strategies to prevent and reduce obesity and encourage overall health without creating further stigma toward thousands of individuals whose quality of life is already reduced because of weight prejudice. Strategies include improving access to healthy, affordable foods and safe environments for physical activity.”

Receive Continuing Medical Education on Weight Bias

The Rudd Center recently updated its web-based Continuing Medical Education (CME) course that increases awareness of weight bias in health care settings and helps clinicians improve care for overweight and obese patients. Created in 2008, the course is the first evidence-based online learning tool designed to address weight bias in clinical settings.



A former Australian cricket player is speaking out against weight discrimination and sports stars’ endorsements of unhealthy food. KFC spends up to $8 million each year on marketing and promotion associated with cricket, a popular sport in Australia. Cricket player Stuart MacGill’s fitness level was criticized by the fast-food company after refusing to take part in an ad before his retirement.

Hunger and Obesity: Understanding a Food Insecurity Paradigm

A recent Institute of Medicine workshop explored the relationship between food insecurity and obesity, the current state of the research, and the data and analyses needed to better understand their relationship. Participants discussed the occurrence of food insecurity and obesity in a variety of groups, including children, immigrants, Native Americans, rural populations, and the U.S. population as a whole.

Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Deputy Director, participated as a session panelist. The workshop report can be read online at no cost or downloaded.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

April 6, 12:30 pm
Scott DeFife, MPA
Executive Vice President, Policy & Government Affairs, National Restaurant Association
Today's Restaurant Industry: Empowering Consumers with Healthy Choices and Nutrition Information

April 13, 12:30 pm
Ian Brissette, PhD
Unit Director, Chronic Disease and Risk Factor Surveillance Unit, New York State Department of Health
Applying the WellSAT to Conduct Public Health Surveillance and Program Evaluation on School Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Physical Education Policies in New York State

April 25, 12:30 pm
Mary Story, PhD, RD
Professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health; Associate Dean for Student Life, School of Public Health; University of Minnesota
Bright Start: A School-Based Obesity Prevention Trial in American Indian Children

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

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 Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download.

Bullying Prevention: A Glaring Omission

While media attention about bullying in youth has increased, the national discussion has failed to include weight-based victimization toward youth, according to a recent article by Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. Dr. Puhl reported studies consistently show that overweight youth who are teased and bullied about their weight have higher risk of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body image, eating disorders, avoidance of physical activity, and school absenteeism. She noted that if educators, parents, and providers ignore this type of victimization, the 30% of youth who are vulnerable to bullying because of their excess weight are failing to be reached. The article is the latest in a series by Dr. Puhl about weight bias on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

B. Timothy Walsh, MD
Professor of Psychiatry, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U and through an RSS Feed.

Front Burner News

Weight Stigma Spreading Around the World

As global health officials step up efforts to treat obesity as a public health epidemic, researchers from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University are warning that there is another epidemic spreading around the world, weight stigma against obese people. Read more.

Menu-Labeling Law Reduces Calorie Intake

Fifteen percent of fast-food patrons in New York City who use posted calorie information on chain restaurant menus eat an average of 106 fewer calories than those who don’t see or ignore the calorie content, according to a new study by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Such a daily reduction could lead to 26,000 fewer calories a year, or an equivalent of 7.5 pounds. Read more.

Snacking Influenced by Food Environment

Leisurely meals don’t curb snacking, finds a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition. The toxic food environment, filled with readily available and tempting foods, overrides the body’s natural response to satiety. Read more.

Children’s Hospital Funded by Beverage Industry

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia received a $10 million grant to expand its obesity program from the Foundation for a Healthy America, a nonprofit created by the American Beverage Association. Read more.

New York City Is Pioneer of School Lunch Revolution


The New York City public school system serves 860,000 healthy meals a day and is considered a pioneer in the school lunch revolution. In this school system, school lunches are thought of as food and fuel rather than a government service. Read more.

“Traffic Light” Food Labeling in Australia

With great opposition from food manufacturers, the Obesity Policy Coalition has applied the ''traffic light'' food labeling system to some of Australia's most popular processed foods, illustrating their high sugar, fat, and/or salt content. Read more.


More States Propose Sweetened Drink Taxes

Texas and Rhode Island have recently filed bills to establish penny-per-ounce taxes. Lawmakers in Hawaii are again considering a tax.

Taxing Junk Food: Little Change with Big Results

Little changes affect people’s food choices. Put healthy food at eye level and youth are more likely to buy it. Take away trays in cafeterias, and food and beverage waste drops between 30 and 50%. A tax on junk food is a similar small change that could yield big results for health. Read more.


Children Prefer Cereal with Cartoon Characters on Box

Children think cereal tastes better if a cartoon character is featured on the packaging, according to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. Read more.

WHO to Guide Countries on Food Marketing to Youth

The World Health Organization is creating guidelines for member countries designed to curb marketing toward children. Read more.

Mexico Introduces Guidelines to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Mexico recently introduced new guidelines intended to reduce childhood obesity. However, lollipops, potato chips, and cookies are still allowed to be sold in schools due to special interests led by Mexico’s powerful snack food companies. Read more.


Kellogg’s New Advertising Campaign

In their new Share Your Breakfast campaign, Americans upload photos of their breakfast, and for each photo shared, Kellogg will donate a school breakfast to a child in need. Read more.

Soda Companies Showing Creativity

As research emerges linking soft drinks to obesity, the American Beverage Association is eager to position themselves as helping to solve the childhood obesity problem, not cause it. From buying off city councils to donating money to a children’s hospital, beverage companies go to extremes to keep looking good. Read more.

Colors We Should Be Eating


The mnemonic of ROYGBIV, used to learn the seven colors of the rainbow, can also be used to represent the colors of healthy foods. Read more.