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

March 2012

Chicago Alderman Calls for Hearings on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages and Taxes


George Cardenas, a Chicago alderman, proposed a tax on sugary drinks that could be as much as a penny per ounce. The tax could generate revenue and reduce consumption, obesity, and related healthcare costs.

“We’ve taken high-sugar content beverages out of the public schools. The next step is to tax them,” said Cardenas, chairman of the Chicago City Council's Health Committee. “We have to stem this epidemic.”

The Rudd Center provides extensive resources on sugar-sweetened beverages and taxes.

Food and Beverage Taxes and Marketing Regulations Recommended by UN Food Expert

Five priority actions for addressing diets and food systems were issued by Olivier de Schutter, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Priorities included taxing unhealthy food and beverages to reduce consumption and subsidize fruits and vegetables, and instituting an international code of conduct on food and beverage marketing. Read the full report.

"This is a landmark document that highlights the importance of considering the top world food priorities - sustainability, hunger, and obesity - in the overall context of people's right to food that promotes health and does not harm the environment," according to Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director. "The focus on policies such as taxing unhealthy foods and tighter regulation of practices such as food marketing are welcome and necessary."

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Positive Media Portrayals of Obese Individuals Reduce Weight Stigma

Presenting obese individuals in a positive, non-stereotypical manner in the media could help reduce the public's weight-biased attitudes, according to a study from the Rudd Center. The study, published online in Health Psychology, investigated public attitudes and preferences toward obese individuals based on whether they are stigmatized or portrayed positively by the media.

The research revealed that study participants who viewed stigmatizing images expressed stronger negative attitudes toward obese individuals than those who viewed positive images. Participants said that they preferred viewing the respectful images instead of the stigmatizing images.

To increase public support for obesity prevention and treatment and reduce weight prejudice, the authors suggest that media should make a pledge against perpetuating negative stereotypes and use more respectful portrayals of obese persons.

The study was coauthored by the Rudd Center's Rebecca Pearl, a Yale PhD student in clinical psychology; Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives; and Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director.

New Rudd Center RSS Feed

Subscribe to the Rudd Center’s new RSS feed, Rudd Radar, to stay up-to-date on Rudd Center publications, statements, and news on food policy, obesity, and weight bias.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

March 21, 12:30 pm
Matt Longjohn, MD, MPH
Senior Director, Chronic Disease Prevention Programs, YMCA of the USA
A Physician Advocate's View of Policy and Systems Changes for Chronic Disease Prevention

March 23, 12:30 pm
Matthew Prescott
Director of Food Policy, The Humane Society of the United States
Farms or Factories? How Politics, Corporations & Consumers Are Making Industrial Agriculture More Humane

March 28, 12:30 pm
Timothy D. Lytton, JD
Albert and Angela Farone Distinguished Professor of Law, Albany Law School
Can You Believe It’s Kosher? Trust, Reputation, and Non-Governmental Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food

April 4, 12:30 pm
Robert H. Lustig, MD
Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, University of California, San Francisco
The Sugar Pandemic – Policy vs. Politics
*Location – Yale Peabody Museum, 170 Whitney Avenue, 3rd Floor, Auditorium*

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 Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download.

LA County Health Department Launches Sugar Calculator

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently unveiled a sugar calculator to demonstrate the amount of sugar consumed from sugar-sweetened beverages. The core campaign message is "You wouldn't eat this much sugar, why are you drinking it?". The department also began a public transit and billboard education campaign.

Employment Opportunities at the Rudd Center

If you would like to work toward improving the world's diet and preventing obesity, read about the Research Associate and summer Intern opportunities at the Rudd Center.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Robert H. Lustig, MD

LustigRobert H. Lustig, MD, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, will present The Sugar Pandemic – Policy vs. Politics on April 4 during the Rudd Center’s Spring Seminar Series.

Dr. Lustig is a neuroendocrinologist whose research focuses on the regulation of energy balance by the central nervous system. He is researching how nutritional, neural, hormonal, and genetic influences affect the obesity epidemic.

He is the author of numerous articles, book chapters, and reviews on obesity, including the recent commentary arguing that sugar fulfills the public health criteria for regulation, published in the journal Nature. In 2009, Dr. Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” that garnered national media attention, in which he argued that sugar is the primary cause of the metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, hypertension, lipid problems, and heart disease). He is the author of the upcoming book, “Fat Chance: Gambling on Our Personal and Public Health” (Hudson Street Press), to be released in January 2013.

Dr. Lustig graduated from MIT, received his MD from Cornell University Medical College, completed a pediatric residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and performed his clinical fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at UCSF. He spent six years as a Research Associate in neuroendocrinology at The Rockefeller University.

He is the past Chairman of the Ad hoc Obesity Task Force of the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society, a current member of the Obesity Task Force of The Endocrine Society, a member of the Steering Committee of the International Endocrine Alliance to Combat Obesity, and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Heart Association of the Bay Area.

Worst Marketing Practice

Wendy’s Offers Specialty Kids’ Meal Toys for 2-Year-Olds

Wendy’s has partnered with Genius Brands International, makers of Baby Genius education products. During the next year, Baby Genius books will be offered to young children with their Wendy's Kids' Meals. The books also contain a coupon for a set of Baby Genius DVDs. Baby Genius characters will be displayed in Wendy’s restaurants and on its website. Read more.

Have you seen a best or worst food marketing practice?
Send them to the Rudd Center.

Lessons from Habit Heroes: Are There Better Ways for Disney to Address Childhood Obesity?

Disney's Epcot Center recently launched an exhibit to address childhood obesity and promote healthy eating and physical activity in children, wrote Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives, in a recent blog on Medscape. The exhibit included comic-strip-like unhealthy habit "villains" with names like "Lead Bottom" and habit heroes (“Will Power” and “Callie Stenics”) who fought the villains. Within days, public criticism and backlash emerged, with concerns that the images and content of the exhibit were shaming and stigmatizing obese children and their families. In response, Disney quickly closed the exhibit, but reports continue to suggest the possibility of revising and reopening the exhibit

Should this exhibit be re-opened? If so, what should be done differently? 

The blog is the latest in a series about weight bias by Dr. Puhl on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Thomas C. O'Guinn, PhD
Professor, University of Wisconsin School of Business

W. Douglas Tynan, PhD, ABPP
Director, Program Development and Implementation, Nemours Health & Prevention Services

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

Front Burner News

Walmart’s New Food Label Is Self-Serving

Walmart recently unveiled a food label that it says will help consumers make healthier food choices, but some critics feel the move is self-serving. Read more.

School Vending Machine Guidelines

The government is set to release a set of nutritional standards for foods that children can buy outside the lunchroom. Read more.

Junk Food Taxes and Europe

Obesity rates have slowed, stabilized, or stopped growing in Europe, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This may be due to governments stepping up efforts to tackle the causes of obesity, with some looking at taxing fatty and sugary foods. Read more.

Addictive Properties of Food

Energy-dense and high-sugar foods can elicit neural responses during consumption that are similar to those seen in drug addiction. Excessive consumption of these foods lowers activity in the brain’s reward process, which may make a person eat more in an effort to experience the same pleasure, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Read more.

Healthcare Costs in America


By 2020, approximately 75 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that Medicare costs are increasing the most for obese people. Read more.


Children Consume Too Much Sugar

Children and teens are consuming too many calories from added sugar in beverages and processed foods, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more.

Behind the Soda Wars Is an Ample Sugar Subsidy

A bill was proposed in Vermont by Rep. George Till to impose a penny-per-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage tax. Read more.

Boston Hospitals Curb Soda Consumption

Under Boston’s new initiative to curb soda consumption, hospitals in the area have pledged to remove high-sugar beverages and replace them with more nutritious options; install free water dispensers; display red, yellow, and green stoplight symbols on beverages to indicate their nutrition value; and educate patients and staff about healthy beverage choices. Read more.

Illinois Hospitals Advocate for Soda Tax

The Illinois Hospital Association is calling for an increase in sales tax on soft drinks to raise revenue and improve health. Read more.

PepsiCo’s Strategic Shift

Despite PepsiCo’s efforts to sell healthier products, the company recently announced a strategic “reset” and will invest more than $500 million this year in marketing its core products – soft drinks and salty snacks. Read more.


McDonald’s Launches Happy Meal Ad Campaign

McDonald’s is launching a national TV ad campaign that promotes Happy Meals with nutritional and physical activity messages. Read more.

British Websites Marketing to Children

Britain’s Children's Food Campaign is complaining to the Advertising
Standards Authority about more than 50 websites they claim market junk
food to children. Read more.

Food Advertising Affects Youth

Parents have little influence over their children's food choices and how effective junk food advertising is, according to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics. Read more.

PepsiCo Plans Marketing Boost for Snacks Division

PepsiCo has announced plans to boost advertising and marketing for its snack business by 35 percent in the upcoming year. The company plans to unveil many new products, some targeting Hispanics, and promotions that target young males. Read more.


Regulating Sugar

Our government must acknowledge the dangers caused by the unhealthiest aspects of our diet and figure out how to help us cope with them. Sugar consumption is the biggest public health challenge facing the developed world. Read more.

First Amendment and Food Marketing

The First Amendment does not give food corporations the right to market foods in any way they like, especially to children. Read more.

Cereal vs. Oatmeal


Most packaged cereals are of poor nutritional quality and loaded with sugar. Oatmeal may be a healthier breakfast option. Read more.

Chicken Nuggets Trump a Home-Packed Lunch?

Claims that a preschooler was forced by a state inspector to give up her home-packed lunch and take the school lunch of chicken nuggets because her packed meal did not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines has garnered significant media attention. Read more.