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

December 2013

Rudd Center Joins the Institution for Social and Policy Studies

The Rudd Center recently announced that it will become part of the university’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS), Yale’s premier center for the study and shaping of public policy and training of future policy leaders.  

Recently ranked as one of the most effective among all U.S. nonprofits working on nutrition policy, the Rudd Center will join ISPS as a specialized study center. Working with ISPS, it will continue to focus on its mission of improving the world’s diet, preventing obesity, and reducing weight stigma by establishing creative connections between biological and social science and public policy.  

“We are delighted to join ISPS and the community of social science and policy researchers at Yale,” said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Director. “This move reflects the Rudd Center's commitment to expanding our longstanding collaboration with faculty and students from other departments and schools at Yale.”

“The Rudd Center has shown how high-quality research and creative thinking can be married to thoughtful commentary on public policy,” said Jacob Hacker, PhD, Director of ISPS and Professor of Political Science. “We expect to learn from them as much as they learn from us as we move forward together.”

The ISPS network at Yale includes a large roster of top scholars and students from social science departments, as well as from law, medicine, environmental studies, public health, and management. It is home to three other specialized study centers: the Center for the Study of American Politics, ISPS Health at Yale, and the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. The Rudd Center will become a partner with these ISPS centers as they seek to expand their work on some of the most pressing health issues of our day.

The Rudd Center Shares its 2013 Accomplishments

The Rudd Center works to improve the world’s diet, prevent obesity, and reduce weight stigma. Over the last year the Center has conducted cutting-edge research, collaborated with other health organizations, and educated communities and policy makers about empirically supported strategies to improve the food environment.

The Center’s 2013 accomplishments can be found here along with a video featuring Rudd Center Director, Marlene Schwartz, PhD, that highlights the Center's work and the dedicated people behind it.

Your gift supports the Center’s critical research, education, and outreach. Learn more about how you can help here

Senator Calls on Energy Drink Companies to Remove Toys Targeting Kids from Store Shelves

The Rudd Center’s Director of Marketing Initiatives, Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, was recently invited to speak at a press conference with Senator Richard Blumenthal of CT, who urged energy drink companies to remove toys bearing their logos from retail stores across the country.

Despite statements by both Red Bull and Rockstar claiming their companies do not market to children, a toy car bearing Red Bull’s logo and a toy boat bearing Rockstar’s can still be found on store shelves.

During the press conference, Senator Blumenthal showed examples of these toys, and again called for their removal. Jennifer Harris spoke about the health risks associated with energy drinks and how young people are exposed to massive amounts of marketing for energy drinks.

The energy drink market has expanded quickly in recent years. Due to the potential health risks caused by stimulants in energy drinks, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that they never be consumed by children or adolescents.

Health Advocates Host Webinar on Sugary Drink Tax Campaigns in Mexico and Telluride 

The Rudd Center, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and California Center for Public Health Advocacy recently hosted a webinar to hear from the leaders of the latest sugary drink tax campaigns. Alejandro Calvillo Unna, Executive Director of the Mexican Civil Society Association, and Emo Overall, of Kick the Can Telluride and co-founder of Partnership for Lifelong Active Youth, recounted their campaign strategies and spoke about lessons learned. For a link to a recording of the webinar, email

Parents against Allowing Children under Age 13 to Join Facebook 

Parents strongly disagree with allowing children under 13 to join Facebook, according to Rudd Center researchers. Facebook’s current terms of service do not allow children under 13 to become members, but the social networking site is considering relaxing these rules.

Researchers surveyed a sample of parents about whether children under age 13 should have their own Facebook profiles and whether Facebook should allow advertisers to use those profiles and other information to target marketing to children.

Over 73% of the parents surveyed did not agree that children under the age of 13 should have their own Facebook profiles. In addition, if children under 13 are permitted to use Facebook, more than two-thirds of the parents surveyed said it would not be okay for fast food, soft drink, and snack companies to market to children on Facebook or for any advertisers to use Facebook information to target children.

SideKicks Settlement Requires Misleading Ads to be Removed from Air 

ChangeLab Solutions and the Rudd Center applaud a recent settlement with a company marketing a sugary beverage to kids as a product that would enhance their health.

The settlement between the New York State Attorney General’s Office and Abbott Laboratories, is in response to a complaint filed by health advocates about misleading ads for Pediasure SideKicks, a sweetened chocolate-, vanilla-, or strawberry-flavored shake-type beverage, and SideKicks Clear, a sweetened fruit-flavored drink that does not contain milk.

Examples of the marketing include:

• Advertising Pediasure SideKicks using television ads that showed an energetic kid on a soccer field contrasted with kids who were shown to have eaten junk food like French fries or doughnuts. The ads implied that SideKicks would enhance the child’s performance on the field, as well as her overall health.
• In addition, though SideKicks Clear contained no actual fruit, Abbott had online ads that included pictures of fruit, which could easily mislead consumers to think fruit was an ingredient. Moreover, the product’s label did not include language, required by federal law, specifying that the beverage contains no fruit or fruit juice.

The settlement required Abbott to pull these ads from television and the Internet. “We are thrilled that the ads are off the air,” said Marice Ashe, JD, JPH, CEO and founder of ChangeLab Solutions. “This is a perfect example of the kind of misleading marketing that directly and negatively affects the health of kids in all our communities.”

“This settlement represents a tremendous victory in our effort to shine the light on the misleading practices of beverage companies, and should serve as a warning to other companies engaged in similarly deceptive marketing practices,” said Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Rudd Center Director.  

Parents and advocates who see similar ads about other products can report them to their state attorney general’s office, to industry organizations, such as the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) and the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), which oversee self-regulation of these practices, or to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). ChangeLab Solutions offers a free guide to identifying and reporting these ads.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Parents Support Anti-Bullying Policies that Protect Overweight Students

Parents of both overweight and normal-weight children are concerned about weight-based bullying and are in favor of a range of policy initiatives to address the issue, according to two new studies recently published by Rudd Center researchers.

Researchers surveyed 918 American parents with children ages 2-18 years. The first study, published in Childhood Obesity, examined parental perceptions and concerns about weight-based victimization in youth. The second study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, examined parental support for policy measures and school-based efforts to address weight-based victimization of overweight youth.

In the first study, researchers found that 53% of parents perceived that the most common reason youth are bullied is because they are overweight. Parents’ views remained the same regardless of their own weight or their child’s weight. Fewer than 13% believed that race, sexual orientation, or disability were the most common reasons for youth being bullied. In addition, parents both with and without overweight children expressed similar levels of concern about the health consequences of weight-based bullying for youth.

Findings from the second study showed that although most parents perceived overweight youth to be vulnerable to weight-based bullying at school, less than half of the parents surveyed believed schools are adequately prepared to deal with the issue. At least 80% of parents agreed that schools should implement anti-bullying policies that include specific protections for students who are overweight or obese, increase resources available to youth who experience weight-based victimization at school, and promote awareness about the problem. Support was also strong for broader policy measures, with more than two-thirds of parents agreeing that state anti-bullying laws should include specific protections against weight-related bullying.

“These studies highlight how concerned families are about weight-based bullying, and that there is substantial support among parents for a range of actions to address the problem more effectively at both the school and state level,” said Rebecca Puhl, PhD, lead author of both studies and Rudd Center Deputy Director.

The authors asserted that this evidence can be used by schools and concerned parents to increase public awareness, support advocacy efforts, and inform policy makers about weight-based bullying and the need for greater protection of youth who are vulnerable to this form of bullying.

The paper published in Childhood Obesity was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Deputy Director, Rebecca Puhl, PhD; Joerg Luedicke, MS, Statistical Consultant; and Jenny DePierre, BA, former Research Assistant. The paper published in the International Journal of Obesity was co-authored Rebecca Puhl, PhD and Joerg Luedicke, MS.

Weight Bias is Commonly Observed by Health and Medical Students

Health and medical students witness stigmatizing comments and behaviors about obese patients during their training and also exhibit some weight-based biases and attitudes of their own, according to a study by the Rudd Center recently published in the journal Obesity.

The researchers surveyed 107 students studying to be physician’s assistants, psychologists, or psychiatrists.

Only 3% of participants surveyed agreed that it was acceptable to make jokes about patients with obesity, yet 43% responded that patients with obesity are common targets of derogatory humor; 50% indicated that their peers had negative attitudes about patients with obesity; and 63% reported witnessing other students making jokes about patients with obesity.

In addition, a majority of respondents did not believe patients with obesity would adhere to treatment recommendations or that those patients would be able to maintain weight loss. Only 25% said that they would enjoy counseling patients who have obesity.

The results also showed that many students believed obesity to be caused primarily by behavioral factors, rather than complex environmental and situational factors.

The authors recommended that obesity stigma reduction should be an integral part of medical and health education.

The Rudd Center offers a free educational video to be used in medical staff training that aims to raise awareness of the sources and consequences of weight bias in health care, and provides a range of practical strategies to optimize the health care experience for obese patients.

The paper was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Deputy Director, Rebecca Puhl, PhD; Joerg Luedicke, MS, Statistical Consultant; and Carlos Grilo, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry and of Psychology, Yale University and Director, Program for Obesity Weight and Eating Research.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Victor C. Strasburger, MD
Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine; Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics; Professor of Family & Community Medicine; University of New Mexico School of Medicine
Children, Adolescents & the Media - Why Won't They Believe Us?

Amy Dawson Taggart
National Director, Mission: Readiness
Childhood Obesity: A National Security Issue

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes.

Front Burner News

Weight Stigma Common in Children’s Movies

Popular children's movies contain mixed messages about eating habits and obesity, according to a study published in the journal Obesity. Many of these animated and live-action movies are guilty of "glamorizing" unhealthy eating and inactivity, while at the same time condemning obesity, according to the authors. Read more.

SNAP May Not Improve Food Security or Diet Quality

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program may not improve food security or diet quality among participants, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Read more.

Parent-Only Programs Help Obese Children

The standard for treating childhood obesity currently involves using a family-based approach in which both parents and children attend meetings on losing weight, but a review of past studies published in the Journal of Public Health suggests that parent-only meetings may work just as well. Read more.

Study Shows “Healthy Obesity” is a Myth

The notion that some people can be overweight or obese and still remain healthy is a myth, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers found that excess fat still carries health risks even when cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels are normal. Read more

Food Manufacturers Reformulate Products when Consumers Push for Change 

As Americans pay closer attention to what they eat, food and beverage companies are learning that unfamiliar ingredients can evoke criticism among bloggers who start online petitions, according to Candice Choi, reporter for the Associated Press. Read more.

People Prefer Sugar over Fat

People have a stronger preference for sugar than for fat, according to a study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Read more.

Taste Preferences Formed During Early Childhood

The taste preferences that children form during the first years of life predict what they will eat later on, according to researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, a nonprofit research organization in Philadelphia. Read more


Sugary Drink Tax Campaigns Educate Communities

By discussing a sugary drink tax, communities are exposed to information that helps clarify why sugary drinks are so unhealthy, according to Jeff Ritterman, retired Chief of Cardiology, Kaiser Richmond Medical Center in California and former Richmond City, CA Council member. Read more.

United States Should Follow Mexico’s Lead and Tax Sugary Drinks

The Mexican government has raised the stakes in defining a quality diet by taxing sugary drinks and junk food, according to Mark Bittman, food journalist for The New York Times. Bittman hopes the U.S. will follow Mexico’s lead and recognize that real food is preferable to processed products. Read more.

Coca-Cola’s “Cap the Tap” Program Minimizes Health 

In 2010 Coca-Cola launched a “Cap the Tap” program which encourages restaurant wait staff to use suggestive selling techniques to convert requests for tap water into orders for revenue-generating beverages. Anne Stuhldreher, Senior Program Manager at the California Endowment, explains how this campaign does nothing more than maximize profits and minimize health. Read more.


Will Junk Food Taxes Curb Obesity in Mexico? 

Lisa Powell, Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, discusses the junk food tax in Mexico and whether it will have an impact on the world’s most obese country during Bloomberg Television's “In the Loop” program. Read more.  

Media Advocacy Resource for Soda Tax Initiatives

The Berkeley Media Studies Group provides resources for advocates seeking assistance with answering tough questions on policy proposals designed to reduce consumption of sugary drinks. Read more.

Monster Energy Drink Lawsuit Dismissed  

Monster’s lawsuit that sought to block litigation aiming to force the company to reform its energy drinks, packaging and marketing practices has been thrown out by a Federal court. Read more

Gatorade Creates Mobile Game that Discourages Water Consumption 

Gatorade has created a mobil game called “Bolt!,” which features Usain Bolt - a Gatorade athlete and the fastest man in the world. The game positions Gatorade as the hero, helping fuel a better performance and higher score, and water as the enemy, a choice that will hinder performance. Read more.  


Philadelphia’s City Council Authorizes Ads on School Property

Philadelphia's City Council is considering a bill that would allow the placement of commercial advertisements on school distric buildings as a way to generate revenue.  The Rudd Center's parent advocate website, Rudd 'Roots Parents, has resources and tools to help parents stop food and beverage marketing to children in schools. Read more.

PHAI Releases Report on Digital Food Marketing to Children

The Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law recently released a report on digital food marketing to youth and encourages State attorneys general to put a stop to troubling digital marketing practices that may deceive youth and their parents. Read more

Celebrity-Endorsed Food and Beverage Marketing is Effective 

Celebrity-endorsed food and beverage advertising campaigns are emotionally and effectively driving America’s youth to product consumption, according to a study by the WAT-AAH! Foundation, in conjunction with Fit Kids. Read more