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

January 2010

Rudd Center Releases New Weight Bias Video Targeted at Children and Teens


The Rudd Center has released a new educational video and discussion guide in its internationally-acclaimed weight bias video series, highlighting the issue of weight bias among children and teens. Designed to initiate and support discussion of weight prejudice in middle school, high school, and other youth group settings, this 17-minute video is a must-see and must-share for parents and educators.

“Weight Prejudice: Myths & Facts” features Bene, a camcorder-toting teen who turns a class biology project into an important lesson about the impact and myths of weight prejudice. She brings key issues out into the open, helping kids and teens realize that weight prejudice is wrong. Viewers will also learn how to help themselves and their classmates increase awareness and cope with weight-based teasing.

“Overweight and obese youth are especially vulnerable to weight-based victimization, both at school and at home, which poses serious risks to their emotional and physical health, “ said Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. “We hope that this video will help increase awareness of the pervasiveness of this problem in today's youth, and the importance of protecting children from weight bias and its consequences."

The Rudd Center offers many free weight bias resources for children, teens, parents, teachers, and health care professionals, including the videos “Weight Bias at Home and School” and “Weight Bias in Health Care.”

E-mail the Rudd Center to receive free DVDs of the videos and specify which DVD(s) you would like to receive.

Impact of Menu Labeling: People Eat Less When They Know More

Calorie labels on restaurant menus result in the consumption of significantly fewer calories, according to a new study from the Rudd Center. The study, which measures the impact of menu-labeling regulations, appears online in the American Journal of Public Health.

The researchers studied 303 adults in New Haven, Connecticut, dividing them into three groups — the first saw a menu with no calorie labels, the second saw a menu with calorie labels, and the third saw a menu with calorie labels plus information on the recommended daily caloric intake for an average adult.

Participants in the two groups who saw calorie labels ate 14 percent fewer calories than the group whose participants did not see calorie labels. But, when after-dinner eating was factored in, people in the group who saw menu labels and recommended calorie guidelines consumed an average of 250 fewer calories than people in the other groups.

“This shows that adding a label about daily caloric needs to menu labeling positively impacts people’s food choices, driving them to eat fewer calories,” said lead author Christina Roberto, MS, a Yale PhD student in Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology and Public Health. The other authors were Yale’s Peter D. Larsen, MPhil, Henry Agnew, BA, Jenny Baik, BA, and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director.

“Menu labeling is a public health ‘no brainer,’” added Dr. Brownell. “It is easy for restaurants to do and enhances consumers' awareness about their choices.”

It has been difficult to draw conclusions from previous research on the impact of menu labeling because the results have been mixed. However, unlike previous research, the new study measured what people ate both during and after a meal. These results indicate a causal relationship between menu labeling and reduced food intake.

Nutrition Standards for Foods Marketed to Children Introduced at FTC Hearing

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) held a public hearing in December to review concerns over food marketing and childhood obesity. A collaborative working group of members from the FTC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Federal Drug Administration proposed nutritional standards for foods marketed to children under the age of 18.

The recommended standards suggest that children should have limited exposure to ads for foods high in saturated fats, sugar, and sodium. Marketing should be encouraged for foods that make “a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet” such as lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz applauded the efforts of the 16 companies that have pledged to advertise healthier products to children. Elaine Kolish, Director of the Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, insisted the self-regulatory approach is working, and that companies have “done exactly what they’ve pledged to do, and more.”

However, findings released in a 2009 Rudd Center report, Cereal FACTS, suggest otherwise. The report shows that, even though the cereal companies have followed through on their pledges, they continue to market products high in sugar and sodium to children when the companies have much more nutritious products in their brand portfolios. Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, attended the FTC hearing and presented on “Direct Effects of Television Food Advertising: Priming Consumption.” She believes “a sugar content of three teaspoons per serving does not make products such as Reese’s Puffs, Lucky Charms, or Froot Loops ‘better-for-you.’ If children’s food marketers choose to follow the nutrition standards proposed by the inter-agency working group, they would show a real commitment to improving the health of children.”

David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, noted these nutrition standards are recommendations, not regulations, and therefore are non-binding. Vladeck did warn, however, that companies should heed the FTC’s recommendations and improve food marketing tactics. Otherwise, “Congress may decide for all of us.”

Congress is set to review the proposed nutrition and food marketing standards in 2010.

Rudd Center Affiliated Faculty Spotlight: Nathan Novemsky, PhD

NovemskyNathan Novemsky is Professor of Marketing and Fellow at the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management. His research examines consumer behavior, focusing on the use of information in situations where multiple pieces of information are available and on mis-predictions of the enjoyment of experiences.

Dr. Novemsky was recently involved in a project examining how food choices are made in grocery stores. The research explored the choices between healthy and less healthy foods and differences in the choice process between low- and middle-income consumers.

Dr. Novemsky was selected as a Marketing Science Institute Young Scholar in 2007 and was a visiting scholar at Wharton's Decision Processes Center. He completed his MA and PhD in Social Psychology at Princeton University and has held an academic appointment at Yale since 2000.  

Rudd Center Launches Spring Seminar Series


Gary E. Knell, JD, President and CEO of Sesame Workshop, was a speaker in the Fall 2009 Seminar Series.

The Rudd Center has hosted many renowned experts in academics, public policy, and the media to discuss their work and its implications for the study of obesity, food policy, and weight bias. The Spring 2010 Seminar Series will welcome Mark Bittman, author and New York Times columnist; James E. Tierney, Director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School and Former Attorney General of Maine; and Geraldine Henchy, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Food Research and Action Center.

Upcoming Seminar Speakers

January 13
12:30 pm
Steven N. Blair, PED
Professor, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina
Physical Inactivity: The Biggest Public Health Problem of the 21st Century

January 20
12:30 pm
John F. Dovidio, PhD
Professor, Department of Psychology, Yale University
Perceiving and Responding to Stigma from the Perspective of the Stigmatizer and the Stigmatized

January 27
12:30 pm
Lisa M. Powell, PhD
Senior Research Scientist, Institute for Health Research and Policy; Research Professor, Department of Economics; University of Illinois at Chicago
Economics, Media, and Obesity Prevention

Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center, located at 309 Edwards Street in New Haven, Connecticut, 06511. They are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download as a PDF document.

You may sign up to receive weekly E-mail updates from the Rudd Center detailing upcoming seminars and schedule changes.

The Price Elasticity of Food Demand, Systematic Review Published

In order to elucidate how price changes influence demand for various foods, Yale researchers conducted a systematic review that will be published in the American Journal of Public Health in February. Food price elasticity refers to the expected proportional change in product demand for a given percentage change in price. “The Impact of Food Prices on Consumption: A Systematic Review of Research on the Price Elasticity of Demand for Food,” is now available online.

Lead author Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD, Director of Economic Initiatives at the Rudd Center, and coauthors Michael W. Long, PhD, former graduate student at the Yale School of Public Health, and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, reviewed 160 U.S.-based studies on price elasticity in major food categories that spanned seven decades. The systematic review revealed findings with significant policy implications. For example, the researchers found that a 10 percent increase in soft drink prices should reduce consumption by 8 to 10 percent.

These findings help support the Rudd Center’s position on sugar-sweetened beverage taxes that calls for a shift in current taxes and subsidies to promote healthier food choices.

Dr. Brownell believes this publication will “help guide policies that affect food prices in ways that maximize the benefit to public health.”

Rudd Center Director Named New Haven Register’s ‘Person of the Year’

The influence of Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, was noted by the New Haven Register, as Dr. Brownell was chosen as its 2009 Person of the Year.

Remarking on his research and efforts to pass legislation on the nutrition and marketing of children’s cereals, menu labeling  and sugar-sweetened beverage taxes, the Register highlighted many positive changes to the food environment that occurred in the last year. These changes include General Mills’ promise to reduce the sugar content in its cereals, suspension of the food industry’s Smart Choices program, support for a soda tax by President Obama, and passage of a menu labeling bill in the Connecticut General Assembly, which was later vetoed by Gov. Jodi Rell.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of FDA's appropriations committee, agreed. “I work with Kelly on these issues because he is a great source of information that is based on strong independent data.”

According to Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, “Kelly is a true leader in the movement to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in our country.”

Rudd Sound Bites Renewal

The Rudd Center blog, Rudd Sound Bites, is back with an enhanced design that reinforces its position as the place “where food policy meets real life.” In addition to the blog, Rudd Sound Bites features links to our social media applications and allows users to share Rudd Center musings more easily on their favorite sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Visit Rudd Sound Bites today and join the conversation.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Kelly D. Brownell, PhD
Director, Rudd Center
General Mills’ Sugar Announcement

Gary E. Knell, JD
President and CEO, Sesame Workshop

Our collection of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine —  Nutrition & Obesity section, or you may subscribe to an RSS Feed that will automatically update whenever new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

Companies Fall Short in Advertising Healthy Foods to Children

Despite a two-year-old pledge by more than a dozen major food companies to advertise healthier foods to children, about two-thirds of those companies' ads remain for products of low nutritional quality, according to a study released by the advocacy organization Children Now. The report concluded that the industry's effort at self-regulation has failed. Ads for sugary cereals, fast food, and sweet snacks made up more than 70 percent of the total studied. Read more.

Man Drinks Fake Fat in NYC Anti-Soda Video

The message is that drinking just one can of soda a day can add up to ten pounds of weight in a year. New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in a statement that sugary drinks are a main contributor to the city's obesity epidemic. Read more.

Overweight Children May Develop Back Pain and Spinal Abnormalities

Being overweight as a child could lead to early degeneration in the spine, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. This could signal a significant public health problem, particularly because of the health costs associated with back pain in the United States. Read more.

Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes

Women who drink five or more servings of sugar-sweetened cola per week before they conceive increase their risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy, a study published in Diabetes Care indicates. Read more.

Kids Eat Less Junk Food When Middle Schools Stop Providing It


Take the junk food out of school vending machines and cafeterias and kids will eat less junk food, according to a study published in Health Education & Behavior. In addition, the study shows that this type of school-based obesity prevention does not lead to weight concerns or body dissatisfaction among students. Read more.

A Makeover for Food Labels

Nearly two decades ago, Congress passed the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, requiring packaged foods to carry a detailed nutrition facts label. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, wants to give the food facts label a makeover. Read more.

BMI and Waist Circumference Can Predict Risk of Fatal and Non-Fatal Cardiovascular Disease

Body mass index and waist circumference are well-known risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. A new study published in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation now concludes that these risk factors, when accurately measured by trained staff, can actually predict the risk of fatal and non-fatal disease. Read more.

General Mills Reducing Sugar in Kids' Cereal

General Mills — the maker of Lucky Charms, Trix, and Cocoa Puffs — plans to reduce the amount of sugar in its cereals marketed to children. The move comes as many food companies alter their products and face growing scrutiny from consumers, regulators, and health groups over the nutritional value of their foods. Read more.

USDA Will Offer Lawmakers a Sampling of School Lunches

Some lawmakers and congressional staffers will have a lunch that offers the same products, known as commodity foods, which the USDA provides every day to public school students across the nation. The goal is to show the improvements the USDA has made in the nutritional quality and taste of the $1.2 billion worth of school commodity foods and to win support to fund further improvements. Read more.

Obesity Linked with Poorer Breast Cancer Outcomes

Breast cancer patients with a high body mass index have a poorer cancer prognosis later in life, according to a study presented at the CTRC-AACR Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Their treatment effect does not last as long and their risk of death increases. Read more.

D.C. Bill Aims to Improve Student Nutrition

A bill has been introduced by City Council members that would require Washington, D.C. schools to serve students fresh produce from local growers and dramatically expand physical education programs. The Healthy Schools Act would cover both public and public charter schools. Read more.

Heart Disease to Cost U.S. $503 Billion in 2010

Cardiovascular disease and stroke will cost the United States an estimated $503.2 billion in 2010, according to a study by the American Heart Association published in the journal Circulation. The figure includes both health care costs and lost productivity due to death and disease. The researchers said obesity, too little exercise, and poor diet are fueling the expected increase. Read more.

Children's Fitness Declining Across the World

Children of all sizes have become less fit over the past decade, according to research published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood. Obesity is not the only enemy of children's health; researchers said that even those children who are not overeating are frighteningly inactive and may pay the price in terms of their future health. Read more.

Diners Eat Fewer Calories When Menu Lists Entrees' Contents


Diners consume far fewer calories at dinner and afterward when the calorie content of entrees is listed on the menus along with information on how many calories they should consume in a day, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. Read more.


The Skinny on Diet Drinks

While artificial sweeteners have been in use for a century and their safety studied extensively, there has not yet been a long-term human study of the relationship between diet-drink consumption and body weight, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researcher found that drinking artificially-sweetened beverages is associated with being overweight, although it is not clear whether the excess pounds result from drinking diet beverages or that overweight people drink more diet beverages to lose weight. Read more.