Rudd Center Releases Unprecedented Report on Sugary Drink Nutrition and Youth-Targeted Marketing
Young people are being exposed to a massive amount of marketing for sugary drinks, such as full-calorie soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit drinks, according to a new study from the Rudd Center – Sugary Drink FACTS.
The study is the most comprehensive and science-based assessment of sugary drink nutrition and marketing ever conducted. The data show that companies marketing sugary drinks target young people, especially black and Hispanic youth.
The report's authors studied marketing by 14 beverage companies and examined the nutritional quality of more than 600 products including full-calorie soda, energy drinks, fruit drinks, flavored water, sports drinks, and iced teas, as well as diet energy drinks and diet children's fruit drinks.
"Beverage companies have pledged to improve child-directed advertising," said lead researcher Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center. "But we are not seeing a true decrease in marketing exposure. Instead companies have shifted from traditional media to newer forms that engage youth through rewards for purchasing sugary drinks, community events, cause-related marketing, promotions, product placements, social media, and smartphones."
The report was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director; and Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director.
Report on Benefits of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Tax
The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity recently released a report describing the public health and economic advantages of a state tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
“A one cent sugar sweetened beverage tax would save more than $1.5 billion in health care spending over the next decade and reduce obesity-related health care spending in the state’s Medicaid program,” said Frank Chaloupka, PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago, lead author of the report. “We could expect to see the greatest declines in consumption among youth because they consume more sugar-loaded beverages.” The tax would also prevent nearly 3,500 new cases of diabetes in Illinois.
Illinois’ current 6.25 percent sales tax on some beverages has a small effect on beverage consumption, according to the authors. An excise tax would have a greater effect because it would change shelf price, which would influence purchases and reduce consumption and related health problems.
Institute of Medicine Releases Report on Front-of-Package Labeling
The Institute of Medicine, an independent group that advises the government on health policy, recently released a report recommending a new front-of-package labeling system to help consumers "instantly recognize healthier products."
The report, completed at the request of Congress and submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Agriculture, calls for a simplified label for the front of food and beverage packages. The label would show the number of calories per serving and contain zero to three stars to indicate the healthfulness of a product.
The number of stars would be based on three nutrients: added sugars, sodium, and saturated or trans fats. According to the The New York Times, the group chose to evaluate just those nutrients because they were most closely associated with obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other major illnesses. The nutrition facts label would remain on the back of the package.
In January 2011, the food industry proposed its own front-of-package label system called Nutrition Keys, but health experts feel this system would be ineffective. "If left to its own devices, it's pretty apparent that the industry will not come up with a system that works for consumers and will help guide healthy food choices," said Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, in an interview with National Public Radio.
Upcoming Seminar Speakers
November 30, 12:30 pm
December 7, 12:30 pm
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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 the Fall Seminar Series is available online and for download.
Rudd Center Spotlight: Michael F. Jacobson, PhD
Michael F. Jacobson, PhD, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), will present Nutrition and the Politics of Food on November 30 during the Rudd Center’s Fall Seminar Series.
CSPI is a nonprofit health advocacy organization that focuses on nutrition and food safety. CSPI plays a key role in the ongoing battle to prevent diet-related chronic diseases and food-borne illnesses by educating consumers and encouraging government and corporations to take steps to protect the public’s health.
Under Dr. Jacobson’s leadership, the organization publishes the Nutrition Action Healthletter, the largest-circulation health newsletter in the world. CSPI also produces numerous studies and reports, including “Salt: The Forgotten Killer” and “Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks Are Harming Americans’ Health.”
Since 1971, Dr. Jacobson and CSPI have used education, legislation, and litigation to win important reforms. CSPI led efforts in the passage of the 1990 law requiring nutrition facts labels on packaged foods, a 1990 law defining “organic foods,” and a 2003 regulation requiring trans fat to be listed on labels. CSPI’s studies on restaurant meals’ nutritional quality garnered worldwide interest and encouraged restaurant chains to add more healthful items to their menus. That work led to the 2010 law requiring calories to be listed on chain-restaurant menus.
CSPI's actions have led to the removal of numerous deceptive food labels and ads. Dr. Jacobson and CSPI have long been concerned about junk-food marketing aimed at children, the nutritional quality of school meals, microbial contamination of foods, and the safety of food additives. In 2011, Dr. Jacobson and CSPI sponsored national Food Day, a major new annual event that promotes healthy, delicious diets produced in a humane, sustainable way.
Dr. Jacobson is the author or coauthor of numerous publications and technical papers. He has received many awards and is frequently quoted in national media.
Just Published by the Rudd Center
Adolescents: Weight Is Primary Cause for School Bullying
Adolescents reported that being overweight is a primary reason that students are teased at school, according to a study recently published by the Rudd Center in the Journal of School Health. The study is the first to examine adolescents’ observations of weight-based teasing at school and suggests that students view weight-based teasing to be even more common than teasing due to sexual orientation.
Researchers surveyed over 1,500 high school students about their perceptions of teasing and bullying at school. They found that 41 percent of students identified being overweight as the primary reason that students are bullied, followed by sexual orientation, intelligence and ability at school, race and ethnicity, physical disability, religion, and low socio-economic status.
The majority of the students surveyed observed overweight students being called names, getting teased in a mean way, and teased during physical activity, such as gym class. Students also observed their overweight and obese peers as being ignored, avoided, excluded from social activities, having negative rumors spread about them, and being teased in the cafeteria. The majority of students also observed verbal threats and physical harassment toward overweight and obese peers.
While most of the students reported willingness to help an overweight peer who has been teased, about half of the students surveyed remained passive bystanders in these situations.
The authors asserted that these findings are cause for concern, and underscored the need for effective school-based interventions to protect overweight students.
The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center's Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives; Joerg Luedicke, PhD (ABD), Biostatistician; and Chelsea Heuer, MPH, former Research Associate.
National PTA Healthy Lifestyles Month
Each November, thousands of schools and their PTAs across the country work together to promote good nutrition and physical activity during National PTA’s Healthy Lifestyles Month. PTAs, schools, and communities team up to implement programs and activities, such as trying new fruits and vegetables, teaching students about preventative health, walking challenges, healthy cooking classes, and physical activity pledges.
In conjunction with Healthy Lifestyles Month, National PTA has given grants of up to $1,000 to ten PTAs across the country to implement programs that focus on research-based strategies, including limiting sugar-sweetened beverages, focusing on fruits and vegetables, moderating portion sizes, increasing physical activity, and reducing screen time. Grantees are expected to impact 11,000 students through the their programs that will take place from November 2011 through April 2012.
PTA also has downloadable tools, including a Parent’s Guide, posters with nutrition information, and toolkits.
Efforts Needed to Address Weight-Based Bullying in Youth
Groups across the country are voicing significant and justified concern about the prevalence and sometimes fatal consequences of bullying, according to a recent blog by Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. However, she said, these efforts have largely ignored some children who are highly vulnerable to bullying, in particular overweight or obese youth.
There remains a common public perception that some stigma is necessary to provide sufficient motivation or incentive for overweight persons to lose weight. Research challenges this notion, indicating that overweight youth often cope with bullying and stigmatization in ways that are harmful to their physical health and can actually hinder weight loss.
“Time is overdue to support and protect the millions of overweight and obese youth who are vulnerable to torment, bullying, and victimization,” said Dr. Puhl. “We must give a voice to these children, whose stigma is so visible but remains unseen by those who can legitimize their suffering and take action to stop it.”
The article by Dr. Puhl is the latest in a series about weight bias on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).
Rudd ‘Roots Parents
The Rudd SPARK website has changed its name to Rudd ‘Roots Parents. The website continues to support the grassroots efforts of parent advocates to improve school food. It is a forum for parent advocates to gather information, ask questions, share experiences, and stay informed about the latest research. Visit the website and Facebook (and Like the page).
Food for Thought: McDonald’s Launches its Own TV Channel
McDonald’s launched a new, in-restaurant TV channel that features local school sports, movie previews, and captivating human interest stories. The McDonald's Channel targets dine-in customers and is customized to specific communities who visit each restaurant.
In a recent article on The Huffington Post, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Deputy Director, and Barbara Fiese, PhD, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discussed the problems associated with this initiative.
Drs. Schwartz and Fiese said TV is not meant for viewing during family meals at home or in a restaurant. The encroachment of TV into public dining spaces disrupts the positive benefits of eating together, the authors said. The authors also stated that in-house TV networks such as McDonald's will not have any restrictions on food advertisements to children. This means that McDonald's efforts to limit children's exposure to advertisements for its less-healthy products may be undone inside the restaurant. The authors noted that since McDonald's is an industry leader, this initiative will likely start a trend among other restaurants, making it hard for parents to say no to TV while dining.
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