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

July 2010

New Report on Sweetened Beverage Taxes Shows Effect on Health

Soda_SugarThe USDA'S Economic Research Service recently published a report on the connection between obesity and the overconsumption of added sugars from sweetened beverages. Researchers estimated that a 20% price increase from a tax could reduce daily calories by about 35-45 per day, leading to weight loss over one year of 3.8 pounds in adults and 4.5 pounds in children. The weight loss would reduce the rate of overweight in adults from 66.9 to 62.4% and in children from 16.6 to 13.7%.

Chocolate Toddler Formula Discontinued

The company that marketed a controversial chocolate-flavored toddler formula product decided to start pulling it from store shelves in June, just two months after the product was introduced. Enfagrow Premium Chocolate — designed for children ages 12 to 36 months — received criticism for its poor nutritional content from parents and public health advocates.

“Enfagrow Premium Chocolate has 19 grams of sugar (4.5 teaspoons) per seven-ounce serving,” according to Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, and Mary Story, PhD, Professor of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota, in their Atlantic blog. “With obesity rampant around the world, we do not need children being introduced at young ages to hyper-sweet and hyper-palatable foods such as sugar-sweetened fortified chocolate milk. It is not likely to bode well for subsequent eating habits and food preferences.”

The formula's manufacturer, Mead Johnson, will continue to sell the vanilla and unflavored versions.

Obesity Rates Increased in Most U.S. States

The Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently released their annual F as in Fat report on obesity trends in the United States. This year’s subtitle, “How Obesity Threatens America’s Future,” illustrates the serious impact of the public health challenge. Adult obesity increased in 28 states in the last year, up from 23 states in the year prior. Rates for African American and Latino adults were higher than Whites in 80% of states.

Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director, provided his perspective on obesity prevention and control in the report. “Leaders are ready to do something,” he said. “The question is how best to proceed.” He highlighted the importance of changing defaults in the food environment such as food marketing to children (including cereal). He also discussed taxing sugar-sweetened beverages. Dr. Brownell and Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have shown the potential of a sugared beverage tax on reducing consumption, obesity, and generating revenue.

The report also highlights the nature and frequency of weight bias, which has increased by 66% in the past decade in the United States and is as prevalent as racial discrimination. An Executive Summary of the report is available.

Rudd Center in the Media

Obesity and food policy are in the news now more than ever. Our faculty has been on the front lines, including Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Director, and Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD, Deputy Director. Dr. Brownell was interviewed by CNBC's Wall Street Journal Report on the consumer, government, and health impacts of sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. He also appeared on NPR’s On Point to discuss what can be done about the childhood obesity epidemic in America. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart featured an interview with Dr. Schwartz on the importance of government regulation in the obesity epidemic.

Just Published by the Rudd Center

Public Opinion About Laws to Prohibit Weight Discrimination in the United States

U.S. adults are in favor of legislation to prohibit weight discrimination, particularly in the workplace, according to a Rudd Center study published online in the May issue of Obesity. The authors, Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives, and Chelsea A. Heuer, MPH, Research Associate, found public support for workplace laws that would prevent employers from refusing to hire, denying promotions to, assigning lower wages to, or terminating qualified obese employees based on their weight. While legislation has been discussed for several decades as a potential solution to prohibit weight discrimination, no federal laws currently exist.

Influence of Licensed Characters on Children's Taste and Snack Preferences

Children prefer the taste of junk foods branded with licensed cartoon characters on the packaging, compared with the same foods without characters, according to a Rudd Center study published in the July issue of Pediatrics. The study showed for the first time a causal relationship between licensed characters on food packaging and children’s taste and snack preferences. The findings suggest a need for regulation to curtail the use of licensed characters in the marketing of low-nutrient, high-energy foods. Co-authors include Christina A. Roberto, MS, a Yale PhD student in Clinical Psychology and Epidemiology and Public Health; Jenny Baik, BA; Jennifer L. Harris, PhD, MBA, Director of Marketing Initiatives; and Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Director.

Sugared Beverage Tax Endorsements and Recommendations

A new resource is available for those interested in sugar-sweetened beverage taxes. The Rudd Center created a list of national organizations and institutions that support these taxes, recommend more research on the efficacy of this promising strategy, or have called for a decrease in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, as a part of the national effort to reduce obesity and overweight. The document quotes the pertinent statement from each organization, and provides links to the full statement.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Veg Pledge

A newly introduced bill, the Healthy School Meals Act, would provide additional funding to school districts for offering each day options such as low-fat and high-fiber vegetarian entrees and non-dairy milk to most students. The bill, introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), cites the health benefits of a plant-based diet and follows federal dietary guidelines for school meals.

New Resource: Action Guide for Child Care Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies

Childcare

The Connecticut State Department of Education recently developed the Action Guide for Child Care Nutrition and Physical Activity Policies. The guide can help community child care, early education, and after-school programs establish and implement policies and practices that encourage healthy lifestyles in children. The goal is to create an environment that:

  • Provides clear and consistent messages that explain and reinforce healthy eating and physical activity habits.
  • Helps children learn to make healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Provides developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant nutrition education.
  • Provides high quality physical education and daily opportunities for developmentally appropriate physical activity.
  • Supports and engages families in promoting healthy habits.

The guide includes best practices for children from infancy through school age, based on current science, public health research, and national recommendations and standards.

Free Summer Meals Program for New Haven Children

Free breakfasts and lunches are available for all children up to age 18 in New Haven, Connecticut from July 6 to August 6. No application or registration is required.

Employment Opportunities at the Rudd Center

If you would like to work toward improving the world’s diet, preventing obesity, and reducing weight stigma, read about the open positions at the Rudd Center: Research Assistant in Public Policy (Part-Time) and Research Associate for Kelly D. Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Corinna Hawkes, PhD
Consultant in Food and Nutrition Policy; Visiting Fellow, Centre for Food Policy, City University London

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U, under the Yale University Health & Medicine — Nutrition & Obesity section, or can be subscribed to through an RSS Feed that automatically updates when new content is released. Podcasts can be listened to on a computer or downloaded to a music player.

Front Burner News

Boosting Soda Prices by 35% Cuts Consumption

A 35% — or $0.45 — increase in the price of non-diet sodas cut unit sales by 26%, according to a study published online in the American Journal of Public Health. Combining a price increase with an educational campaign advising people that they could lose 15-25 pounds per year by giving up one soda per day also produced a drop in sales. Read more.

Small Changes Steer Kids Toward Smarter School Lunch Choices

With the spotlight on childhood obesity, schools across the country are looking for ways to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables. Brian Wansink of Cornell's Food and Brand Lab discovered that presentation of food made a difference. Read more.

Organic Labels May Trick Dieters into Eating More

Organic

The "organic" label skews people's perceptions about food in ways that might promote obesity, according to an article in the journal Judgment and Decision Making. The results show people sometimes assume organic foods are lower in calories and then indulge in organic cookies more often than regular ones. Read more.

New York Soda Tax Could Curb Obesity, Diabetes

New York Gov. Paterson’s proposed penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages could curb soda consumption and prevent tens of thousands of cases of adult obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the next decade, according to a new study commissioned by the New York City Health Department. The tax would also save state residents an estimated $2.1 billion in medical costs within ten years. Read more.

VOICES

Junk Food and Obesity: Taking a Cue from Tobacco Control

Tobacco

What to do about the obesity epidemic? Here's a thought: substitute "tobacco" for "junk food." That provides a clear road map about what government authorities should be doing to safeguard public health. Read more.

Where the Fight Against Child Obesity Can Go Wrong

Will emphasizing weight rather than health make life harder for all children, overweight and not, in our already appearance-obsessed culture? A series of studies from the Rudd Center revealed high levels of fat bias among doctors — bias they freely express to patients, which in turn damages the trust relationship crucial to good medical care. Read more.

FOOD MARKETING NEWS

Television Diet Brimming with Fat and Sugar

A new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that a diet based on television advertisements shown during prime time would provide 25 times the recommended daily serving of sugar and only 40% of the recommended vegetable serving. Read more.

Junk Food Dominates Kids’ Advergames

A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior analyzed the websites advertised on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, finding that 84% of the websites included advergames. Junk food dominated these advergames, which included just one nutrition or physical activity message for every 45 brand identifiers. Read more.

Kellogg’s to Restrict Cereal Ads

Kellogg’s has agreed to advertising restrictions to resolve an investigation into its claims about the health benefits of its Rice Krispies cereal. The Federal Trade Commission acted against Kellogg’s as public health researchers and obesity opponents have intensified their challenges to the marketing of sugary foods. Read more.

McDonald's Warned: Drop the Toys or Get Sued

A nutrition watchdog group is threatening to sue McDonald's if the fast-food giant won't stop using toys to lure children to its Happy Meals. The Center for Science in the Public Interest said that it has served McDonald's notice of its intent to sue over what it says is unfair and deceptive marketing. Read more.